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2009_12_30 Paperless Lawyering - Written Materials

2009_12_30 Paperless Lawyering - Written Materials

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Published by Dane S. Ciolino

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Published by: Dane S. Ciolino on Dec 31, 2009
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01/23/2011

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Digital
 Workflow 
Overview of written materials
This PDF compendium
 
 The written materials for all of the sessions are included in this PDF file. If youclick on the bookmark icon on the left panel you’ll be able to navigate to any of sessionmaterials. Just click on the bookmark for the session you’re interested in. The writtenmaterials contain almost 200 pages of information.
Online Supplement
In addition to the ‘written materials’ in PDF form, we also suggest you take a look atsome of the information we’ve posted online at www.delicious.com/digitalworkflow . Notethat there is no ‘cle’ at the end of the just-referenced link. This link is where Dane and I note articles of interest to lawyers who are interestedin becoming paperless and using technology better. Given the rapid rate of developments inthis area it makes sense to post this information where folks can access it on a day-to-day basis, as it comes out.
DigitalWorkflow Website
Our website is also a valuable resource (  www.digitalworkflowcle.com ). The top rightpanel lists the last few items that have been posted to the ‘delicious.com’ link mentionedabove. So that’s one way to tune into that information.Below that link is some ‘recommended reading’ which is another source of webarticles that we think you might find interesting or useful.
Online seminars
Dane and I enjoy doing live seminars, but we realize that not everyone’s schedule canaccommodate the dates that we present our CLE programs. We have created two videos of one hour each, which are approved by the Louisiana MCLE committee for CLE credit. Thefirst program is entitled “Paperless 101” and it is eligible for 1 hour of Ethics credit. Thesecond one is entitlted “Paperless 102,” and covers more advanced aspects of becoming paperless. These two programs are basically the same as the two first two hours of this seminar,so if you want to review anything in this seminar you can do so. It costs nothing to watchthe videos, so feel free to watch them as much as you want and to recommend them to otherlegal professionals who might be interested. The only charge is for obtaining CLE credit.Last updated: 12/27/09
 
Digital
 Workflow 
 We are ‘knowledge workers’ - so what do we do now?
What it means to be a knowledge worker
 
Lawyers are the ultimate knowledge workers because laws are nothing more thanrules written down in casebooks and statutes. We spend most of their time reading, writing and analyzing legal information. In short, we are ‘information processors’ and most of what we process is embedded in paper. That’s how it’s been up until recently.But now we--like everyone else--are having to deal with digital information: email (withattachments), spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations, and digital audio and video files. So,today we not only have to manage an unprecedented amount of paper, but also an increasing amount of digital information. Fortunately, we know how to handle paper, even if we can’tkeep up with it. We have systems for dealing with paper that have been around for many years, systems that everyone understands.But digital information (in its many forms) is new, and there are no default methods for how to manage it. To compound the problem, there are more options for handling digitalinformation than exist for paper. Figuring out which system is best is a real challenge and,even after determining the best option, you’ll still have to teach your staff how to use thisnew system on a day-to-day basis.Maybe we should just put off developing a news system for managing digital information.Hmmmmmm. An enticing proposition, but not very realistic.
Dealing with ‘digital reality’
 The main problem is that too many office workers don’t know how to handle digitalinformation. But digital information is intruding into our lives, and its growth rate isfrighteningly exponential. Sadly, the only realistic option is to increase our skill in handling digital information.People who know how to handle digital information already have a large advantage overthose who do not. Tech-savvy office workers are not commonplace today, but how quickly might that change? Probably happen a lot sooner than we expect. Meanwhile, it seemsprudent to take advantage of your opponent’s weakness.So, how can lawyers take advantage of the efficiency of digital information withoutincreasing their existing burdens? How much should they continue to rely on paper? Whichpapers must be kept, or should be kept? How does one make the transition from a largely paper-based system to one that is mostly digital?
Transition to a paperless practice gracefully, not frenetically
 The main rule of transitioning to a digital practice is this: ‘first, do no harm.’ There are someoptions that should be avoided, even if they seem promising and are touted by seemingly tech-savvy consultants. Remember, picking out software is easy; training your office staff toLast updated: 10/16/09
 
2adapt to a new workflow is hard. Hence, the second rule is: focus on strategy and training above all else.
First thing we do: eliminate all (or most) of the paper
 The method for becoming paperless is easy to describe: (1) keep digital information in digitalform; and (2) convert the paper information into digital form. In other words, don’t printout your emails and then file them in physical file cabinets (that would be going against thegrain). And don’t print out letters, which can be sent by email, just to sign them; put agraphic image of your signature in your form business letter. Then you after you create ityou just the final copy as a PDF by email. Lastly, get a scanner and learn how to scan paperto PDF so that you can store your ‘papers’ in digital form. That’s all there is to it. No big cost, no fancy method. But, of course, there will bechallenges. So, let’s take a look at where the challenges lie and how they are overcome. Let’stalk a little bit about what ‘workflow’ is.
Workflow doesn’t require any thought
 Any business, including a law firm, naturally develops some pattern for handling incoming and outgoing information. This pattern is called ‘workflow.’ If you look at differentbusinesses you’d probably find similarities in how they process their paper.But ‘processing’ means more than just filing. If all that was required with incoming paper was to file it then developing a good workflow system would be easy. But it’s not that easy. Why not? Well, consider how an office typically processes incoming mail.Mail is delivered in the morning, and then sorted and distributed to various people.Secretaries review mail and then prioritizes it for their bosses. Copies might need to bedistributed to other folks for them to take some immediate action. And this, my friends, is where the tension arises. That is, there’s often tension between: (1) the long-term goal of storing the informationreliably, and (2) the short-term goal of re-routing the information for immediate use.EVERY workflow system faces this tension; an effective system is one that balances thistension automatically, with near perfect reliability. The paper-based system you have now does this automatically. A new digital-based system will not.
So, where do I start?
 Well, you’ll obviously need a scanner (I recommend the Fujitsu ScanSnap which comes witha full version of Adobe Acrobat). The long term goal of reliable storage requires that youscan EVERY single piece of incoming paper. Right away. No exceptions. Otherwise your‘capture system’ will become unreliable. The immediate goal of ‘information sharing’ will exert a strong pull against the long-termgoal. Obviously, your new system will need to address this goal. But not at the expense of immediate capture and storage.Scanning doesn’t take any longer than copying. Or it shouldn’t if done right. The problem, atfirst, is that scanning is unfamiliar, i.e., not AUTOMATIC. So people will tend to revert toDigitalWorkflowCLE.com

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