- The Conversion To and the Benefits of Electronic File Management
- May 17, 2011
- Law Firm: The Law Office of A. Sam Jubran P.A. - Jacksonville Office
If document and file maintenance as you know it consists primarily of paper, folders and a pendaplex, then perhaps you should consider catching up with the times. Realizing that there are different schools of thought on the topic—usually depending upon your generation, you may still believe that the archaic typewriter or the outdated computer that’s been in the office for years and years is the best way to manage documents and to build files. Nonetheless, if that is your belief, then I am quite certain that the first thing that comes to mind when I mention "old fashioned" is a cocktail made of whiskey, bitters, sugar and fruit.
A "paperless office" is electronic file management in a work environment where the use of paper is eliminated or only wisely used. It is a way to put all of your files, open or closed, inside one small box. It is a vehicle by which you can get to your office at any time, instantly, without driving there, no matter where you are or what time it is. It is a work environment that is accessible to you from not only your laptop at home but also from any PC at any location with a fast-access internet connection. Paperless office enhances your ability to travel and a little "work-on- the-go" makes after-travel return to work a more pleasant experience.
The idea of revamping the means by which you build and maintain files is almost like demolishing your office and rebuilding it because it takes full commitment. This is not an overnight proposition but instead requires research, engineering, outsourcing (unless your office employs onsite IT personnel), integration, training and patience. The endeavor in its entirety may take several months or more depending on your level of enthusiasm and motivation, but in the end, the newly re-vamped office processes will be more accessible, more organized, and so much more efficient that the need for extra support staff can be eliminated. The initial financial investment associated with this renovation should be, at best, a brief consideration.
Because of its efficiency, ease of record keeping, document storage, search, filing, catastrophic recovery and for many other reasons, electronic file management has been widely used for several years and is becoming more prevalent. According to a March 2003 article in Computer Technology Review, 93% of all business documents are created electronically and only 30% are ever printed to paper.1 Over 80% of the printed paper that is filed is never referenced again, and record keeping constitutes 90% of all office activity according to efficiency and productivity expert K.J. McCorry.2 With electronic file management, the generation and keeping of documents is simultaneous thereby eliminating the strain of time-consuming record keeping using the traditional paper filing method. Many medical office charts are now electronic as are the files of insurance companies and other government offices. With the passage of e-filing and e-service rules, electronic file management has become a better solution to the way we practice law.
Today’s office PC is more than just a business tool to draft documents. The same machine has the ability to not only process documents or maintain a calendar, but also the ability to automate, and to effectively manage files in any size law practice. Of course, file maintenance depends not only on the computer but also on the applications you install. There are several applications that work well and essentially do the same thing. Selection of the applications is user specific and is part of the research phase of this integration process. Any electronic file management application will work so long as your PC meets the minimum system requirements for that application. Just like anything else, some applications are better than others but the difference is particular to each office or user.
Now is the time to commit to the renovation of your file management system. Electronic file management is most likely being put to use in some of your opposing counsels’ offices which means that your opposing counsel is spending less time keeping records and more time preparing for trial. Since we can only accept the impossibility of adding more time to the day, the only way to create more time is to save some. With electronic file maintenance, any document in any file can be at your fingertips at anytime, anywhere so long as you have access to a PC with internet connection. With electronic file management, searching for a document or a file is as quick as your network allows and is done without you getting out of your chair. Imagine the time you could save if you never have to physically search for a document or file again. Imagine an office where the filing and service of documents is only a few clicks away.
From home, hotel, your mobile device, or from the business center on a cruise ship in the middle of the Caribbean Sea, with electronic file management access to any document or file is just as simple as if you were sitting behind your desk.