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COUNSEL, CHUBB GROUP OF
Paper still has an important role in the workplace. Many lawyers are so accustomed to
working with paper that they are more efficient
using it. For them, it would be a mistake to try to
eliminate its use.
But there is no question that digital documents
have many advantages over paper ones. Digital
documents can be accessed from almost anywhere
and can be easily encrypted for confidentiality
purposes. Digital records management is easier
and cheaper than physical records management.
The list goes on and on.
Because so many paper documents are now
created digitally rather than printed and mailed
out, more lawyers are reaching the conclusion that
they could just eliminate paper for most purposes.
This column will discuss how you can make the
Even those of us who have mostly gone paperless still get a lot of paper from third parties,
and that’s where scanning can help. I remember
a time when the only scanners were often inconveniently located in the office and difficult
to use. That’s no longer the case, as scanners
like the Fujitsu Scansnap series are inexpensive,
efficient, and simple to use. Smartphones and
tablets have also gotten astonishingly good
at scanning smaller documents. For example,
apps like Apple Notes can now automatically
capture scans even in poor lighting and at a bad
angle. Ever deposit a check on your phone? It’s
the same technology. This is great for things
like business receipts, articles, reference book
pages, or letters.
Most lawyers are used to creating their documents
in MS Word (Word), and it certainly has many advantages over some of the other available formats.
However, many lawyers still prefer printing these
documents because they believe that Word documents are too easy for recipients to modify.
What they don’t know is that it is easy to limit
changes that can be made to a Word document.
In the tools menu, the “protect document” option
will allow you to password protect the document
or restrict it to “read only” or “comments.”
PDFs are another option, and many lawyers
tend to feel more secure using them than Word.
Most PDF apps allow you to “flatten” or otherwise
secure a document so that they can be easily protected in the same ways as Word. And PDFs have
the advantage of creating much smaller files.
Keep in mind that paper is now no more
secure than digital documents. You can scan
a document, modify it to your heart’s content,
and then reprint it to look just like the one you
scanned down to the letterhead or watermark. If
security is why you have been sticking with paper
— don’t. Modern digital formats are actually
more secure for most purposes.
There was a time not too long ago when emails
were not considered suitable for formal legal
communications, and therefore had to be sent
as paper letters. That is no longer becoming the
case. One thing to help hasten that transition
is to make sure your emails look sufficiently
appropriate for business by using the same writing style that you would in a paper letter. Many
companies set standards for signatures, but there
should be nothing to prevent you from accommodating legal or branding needs.
Some of the most efficient and productive
lawyers I know find that keeping to-do lists on
paper is still their favored approach. Far be it
from me to try to fix what clearly isn’t broken.
However, there are so many advantages to using
digital lists. My lists sync across many devices,
give me overdue reminders as needed, and tell
me when I am in a location where one of my
objectives can be checked off. I’ve written before
about task management apps and don’t want to
rehash that here, but this is another area where
you might want to consider going paperless if
you haven’t already.
Let me know if you’ve tried to go paperless
and if you have any tricks to accomplish it.
For more helpful information on the topic, I
recommend an iBook by David Sparks called
HOW TO EFFECTIVELY USE TECHNOLOGY