No one wants their place of business to look like an episode of the television show “Hoarders.” However, the practice of law can reinforce tendencies to hold on to any and all documents. “You never know; we might need them some day.” By its very nature, the law looks to past events in order to determine relationships in the present and the future. Precedent is everything. And precedent relies on records, many of them on paper.
Lately, law firms have been accelerating their transformation from paper-based to digital practices – electronic files, digital workflows, and online applications. They are working hard to reduce the amount of paper in their offices. But mass quantities of physical documents are still stored offsite.
And those archived paper records create unnecessary costs, in terms of time and storage space.
- How much time is required to search for documents in off-site storage?
- How much time is required to visually review and research the information in those documents?
- What percentage of overhead is spent on off-site storage?
When those stored documents are digitized, they become instantly searchable – no more digging through boxes and poring over multiple pages. And instead of taking up many bulky boxes, five million digitized pages fit on one small external hard drive.
This is not to say that every document should be imaged. Properly managed, the document conversion process includes a thorough document assessment. Certain documents should be retained as paper. Some should be scanned, then shredded. Still others don’t have enough value to warrant the cost of digitizing.
An assessment of stored documents lets records managers determine which documents should be digitized and which should be destroyed. Even digitized documents may be destroyed once their digital versions have been confirmed and backed up. The goal is to store paper versions of only those few documents that must be kept in their original medium.
It’s tempting to just hang on to every piece of paper that comes through the office, but a law practice full of hoarders is a really inefficient operation. Law firms that price themselves on efficiency will find additional efficiencies if they digitize many of their stored documents.
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