The Benefits of a Paper-Free Office

Eric H. Milliken, Sutter Law

freelancer-606762_640Making your law office paper-free, or to be honest, 90% paper-free, is a great goal.

I will begin by saying that I have previously read articles along this vein and the very “un-useful” advise included, “You don’t have to print every e-mail!  You can save paper by only printing e-mails from your clients.”

I firmly believe that it is our civic duty to use less resources and strive for the triple bottom line, which is People, Planet and Profit.  Following are some easy tips to help your office become more efficient, cleaner and perhaps even save some money:

  1. Buy a good feeding scanner (not a flatbed scanner). A good scanner, printer and copier combo can be purchased for as little as $150.00
  2. Scan all new mail immediately after reading the letter/brief/document, and save that document to an electronic file. When finished reading the document, it needs to be shredded!  Even though this is against attorney instinct, it is the right thing to do.  It can always be found in the file if it has been appropriately saved by the right title.  Example: John Doe – Demand Letter – June 18, 2015.  Do not be shy about making a long name, as the more information there is, the easier the search will be in the future.  When the file is needed, simply go to the window search bar and type in the key words.  This is faster and easier than an old paper file.
  3. All relevant e-mails should be saved to a PDF. Adobe Acrobat Pro can be purchased for as little as $15.00 per month.  If frugality is important, PrimoPDF is a free alternative.  When you install the program you can print to PDF and save it to your client file.
  4. Use Word, Google Docs or other electronic means to take notes. Even though it sounds easier to jot down a few quick thoughts with a pen, electronic documents have a great advantage; for instance, a) it is easier to send an electronic document to a client or another attorney; b) cutting and pasting the note into an invoice is easy and time-saving; c) bad handwriting/grammar/spelling will not be detected by an unintended party; and, d) the recipient will have a copy of the file in minutes, not in hours.
  5. Do not be overwhelmed by volumes of existing files. Take small steps to become paper-free.  Make it a daily goal to scan the contents of one old file and then shred the remains.
  6. Wills and trusts have special restrictions. Make sure the law is thoroughly understood before shredding an old will!  Seriously – DO NOT SHRED a client’s original wills.
  7. This process will take time, effort and discipline. However applying these recommendations will result in rewarding client comments proclaiming, “Wow!  Your desk is so clean!”

Eric Milliken, Attorney At Sutter Law, San Francisco2 About the author:

Eric Milliken is an attorney with Sutter Law