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Ethical Considerations for Law Firms Going Paperless


Law Firms Going PaperlessIn a traditional office system, mails come to the front desk from where it is transferred to the concerned person. The paper document that arrives in the mail is filed in a cabinet and searched for over and over again when needed. Imagine the clutter, confusion and costs involved in this mode of operation in a legal office handling large volumes of documents every day. That’s why many law firms are migrating to paperless offices.

Scanning and digital imaging of documents allows them to be stored in computers from where they can be retrieved, accessed and shared quickly and easily. In addition to helping attorneys improve productivity and the client experience, going paperless is environment-friendly. The main advantages of going paperless are:

  • Reduced costs and labor
  • Inexpensive and easily searchable
  • Improved client communication and service
  • Saving much of the physical storage space
  • Data Security and easy information sharing
  • Digitized documents, when indexing allows easy search of data

However, in the drive towards digitization, legal offices need to be aware of certain ethical requirements.

While client consent is generally not required for a law firm to go paperless, experts recommend that the following actions are carried out before the document conversion project is complete:

  • Paper documents should be offered to the client before you decide to destroy them
  • Ensure that the hardware and software is accessible to be able to trace data during the conversion period
  • Create a mechanism for the secure storage of client data for at least 10 years from the last date of representation
  • Deliver any property to the client, which is entitled to receive upon termination of representation
  • Documents that the client is entitled to receive upon termination of representation should be returned promptly

Other Considerations before Going Paperless

Before going ahead with a document digitization project, a law firms should have a clear-cut idea about their goals:

  • Determine the objectives of the new paperless system
  • Assess the current paper system including the types of paper and electronic documents
  • Identify the inbound and outbound documents that can be converted to digital format
  • Plan how to handle existing files and closed files
  • Determine which documents cannot be converted to electronic format
  • How to arrange, store and manage the converted documents
  • How to handle remote data access
  • How to integrate the new system with existing risk management procedures
  • Whether the paperless procedure would allow users to create annotations and check-out document for editing
  • Identify the document conversion service provider

Every paperless office has some success story to tell. Document scanning and conversion helps legal offices preserve important data and share or submit it to a co-counsel, partner, or client quickly and efficiently.

About Julie Clements

Julie Clements

Joined the MOS team in March of 2008. Julie Clements has background in the healthcare staffing arena; as well as 6 years as Director of Sales and Marketing at a 4 star resort. Julie was instrumental in the creation of the medical record review division (and new web site); and has especially grown this division along with data conversion of all kinds.