When the pandemic sent the workforce to home offices, most law firms quickly started scanning daily mail to email inboxes. Facilities management or mailroom staff went into the office and cobbled together a new work process to accommodate this method of digital delivery. But delivering scanned mail via the email system compromises the security, compliance and the integrity of the process.
Email is a highly susceptible point of security and compliance in the lifecycle of matter documents and client information. And it has proven to be a poor workflow management tool and perhaps more importantly, nearly impossible to govern.
Legal documents arriving in daily mail should not be delivered via scan-to-email for these reasons:
- Scanned documents are stored residually in the email server, unmanaged. Sensitive client information delivered as attachments violates basic principles of information governance regarding storage and access.
- The email inbox is not a workflow tool and cannot be easily shared with other workers to manage the multi-step process of review, profiling and notification. And there is no way to monitor that every item was properly processed, or even reviewed.
- Scanned images create larger documents that may violate attachment and/or Inbox size limitations. Not to mention bloated message stores that create headaches for IT managers.
- Email messages are a key attack vector for phishing attempts while email attachments are a significant source of malware. Building a mission-critical application on arguably the weakest link in the IT infrastructure would never be advised if starting from scratch.
Clients pay attention to this. Year over year, the ACC survey of Chief Legal Officers show that the governance and management of their information is a top concern. Accordingly, law firms have invested heavily in document management systems (DMS) to store client information. The DMS has become the primary productivity and governance tool for firms to service clients and protect their information. Therefore, the DMS should be the delivery platform for scanned daily mail.
Lawyers and law firms storing documents outside of the DMS expose the firm and its clients to multiple layers of risk—financial, ethical, regulatory and security risks. Such exposure is magnified by a new scan-to-email delivery of legal mail to remote workers.
If 2020 has taught us anything, it is that our shift in operations to include a home workforce is not temporary. Therefore, law firms need something better than the patched together scan-to-email process established earlier this year.
Forced to use existing copier-based technology, law firms are jamming mission-critical mail delivery through a system designed for ad hoc use where scanning occurs one document at a time. Quality checks are difficult and unstructured, evidenced by the fact that scanned mail is still retained in makeshift filing boxes, or delivered to empty desks for later pickup and review.
If the firm’s existing scanning system and email platform is not well suited to take on this important application, what does a modern, compliant mailroom operation look like?
The modern mailroom is a digital operation, comprised of software, process and clerical workers. The operation is founded on productivity, security and reliability. Software and process enables current clerical staff to work efficiently and with minimal training. They scan, QC, and securely deliver daily mail as searchable PDFs to a legal practitioner’s daily mail folder in the DMS, e.g. iManage or NetDocuments. Digital mail delivered into the DMS should accommodate the options of delivering to attorneys, their assistants, profiling staff, or even directly into the matter when teams are sharing work.
Mailroom software should make DMS deliveries using existing secure methods, but not require mailroom operators to have DMS logins. Nor should mailroom operators need to learn complex profiling procedures, or unique and changing delivery preferences and notifications for mail recipients. The solution must support batching of work – such as profiling, stack scanning, and QC checking. It should enable scanning with in-place multi-function copiers or scanners, without adding hardware, software, or requiring complex or error-prone keystroking while standing at an office machine.
To provide operational integrity, firms will also need automated quality controls for the process, a remote help desk and reporting.
The good news is that a Digital Mailroom, run optimally, now routinely digitizes the biggest remaining flow of inbound paper documents – daily mail. The better news is that longstanding Paper2Digital® initiatives will now accelerate, without the pushback from attorneys who insist on paper files. A Digital Mailroom now becomes the driver towards a conclusive Paper2Digital® transformation.