What do attorneys, mailroom operators and records managers need from a digital mail solution?
Law firms now need a best practice digital mailroom operation, moving beyond the scan-to-email workaround established at the onset of the COVID-19 crisis. In seeking a best practice solution, it’s useful to consider the needs of the key stakeholders who most need a robust solution: attorneys, mailroom operators, and records managers.
Attorneys: Mail Notifications
From the perspective of attorneys and legal administrative assistants, the most critical or useful element of digital mail is the inbound message of available mail. This message needs to be as fast as postal mail was in terms of arriving onto the desk—and faster is even better and perfectly possible with today’s available technology.
Getting a notification with an image, mail recipients are enabled to make decisions and take next steps, including whether the physical mail needs to be kept later for legal records keeping purposes. This requirement is getting rare however for most state governments and their courts.
The mail notification message is multi-purpose:
- It has import to the addressee
- It represents a task to the practice team
- It is a step forward in the efficiency of handing-off paper
The simple and quick alert of incoming mail should contain enough information to triage and accurately file away the image for all further work on the matter to enable the flow to next steps happens faster with less cleanup required.
Mailroom operators: Simplicity and Reliability
From mailroom perspective, this work is thankless drudgery, so they need help with repetitive portions of this time sensitive task. Firstly, this is quite simply a strong firm stance on what the standards are for efficient, defensible cost-conscious processing of physical mail. IT can’t be all things to all people and should not be forced into a position to double, or even sometimes triple their work in re-delivering postal mail multiple times/places physically or even digitally.
A good system from a mailroom perspective allows for simple efficient labeling of each item based on information available on the envelope or on-screen recorded in the software tool.
Scanning and quality control can be done in groups as a matter of course with simple checklists. When the operator is done, they should be able to verify the status and the counts and easily go back to pull up any items for which a question is returned. That mail delivery session is then closed, and the operator then has a clean start ready for the next one. Paper is handled and trashed within a few feet of the door rather than travelling miles further inside the building.
Records: Integration with the Matter File
For Records, the requirements are to clear the clutter and capture the true documents as early as possible in the digital matter file. Since as mentioned, the requirement to retain the physical mail is rare, once and done is the name of the game for records and retention compliance. With permission to shred after scan and with reasonable QC, Mailroom, and information governance (IG) staff can focus on efficiency: careful identification and training on naming conventions and any exceptions to the new rule of scan and destroy.
Their requirements will include the ability to direct the images to the best places possible in the DMS. A person knowledgeable about the document types will need to intervene, but this does not always have to be the legal secretary. If standards can be put in place over time for repetitive doc types, everyone is more efficient.
The best system will include feedback mechanisms for tuning the postal mail delivery and any exceptions for each practice, or even a specific recipient.
Wouldn’t it be great if over time the notification message to the addressee and matter team about a mail item delivered an hour ago included a link to the DMS where the item is already filed in its proper client/matter workspace and folder?
In the end, each group will have its own requirements for digital mail, and a robust solution should take into these key considerations as you design your firm’s digital mail room solution for the long term.