The Arc of Time:
Do you remember the introduction of the fax machine? It was a primitive first step but had a dramatic impact on the practice of law. Documents could be moved in minutes rather than hours (and in a bit of irony, the paper document was converted back to paper after having been digitized – but that soon changed with the advancement of email). Examples such as these are numerous and have meant that over the arc of time, the practice of law has moved along the path of digital transformation to become more productive.
The business of law has been the beneficiary of a continuous stream technology which has made the literal practice of law more productive. Much of these advancements have helped us move along the path of digital transformation. Digital transformation takes place at the intersection between technology and process. As technology has advanced, the implementation of technology has often meant changes to the process of the practice of law.
Digital Transformation Comes to the Mailroom:
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the “process” of handling incoming mail had not advanced since the invention of the stamp. As the pandemic moved us out of the office and away from our incoming mail, the old process became much less efficient. Recipients either had to travel to the office to get their mail, have it re-delivered to their homes, or perhaps the mail was “digitized” and delivered electronically.
Digital Mail and Attorney Productivity:
The digital transformation of the mailroom has begun and the opportunities to leverage this transformation will yield improvements in attorney productivity with appropriate changes in the process of mail delivery. Here’s how:
- One obvious benefit is that digital mail can be delivered faster than paper mail. This improvement in speed of delivery means that responses happen sooner. In some instances, this quicker response can be critical.
- Digital mail can pass through a “quality control” step to assess the quality of the scanning process. The impact is that attorneys are not pestered with poor quality scans which can be hard to read or worst case – incomplete.
- Another benefit is that digital mail can be delivered to the firm’s repository-of-record, typically the document management system. This assures that security rules and ethical wall rules are applied (automatically by the DMS), editing contention is managed, and versions are carefully controlled.
- Digital mail is searchable. A DMS user can use DMS search tools to query “today’s mail” for specific content –making it possible for the attorney to assess and respond more quickly and certainly more easily.
- Digital mail is easier to share as needed. Rather than making copies of a paper mail item, the electronic version can be easily shared among team members as needed.
- Once a mail item has been digitized, it can be managed “in stream” with other digital content for compliance purposes. This is essential in situations where records are under scrutiny.
The digital transformation has come to the mail room. As technology advances, so too does productivity and efficiency. The digital transformation within the law firm mailroom allows for corresponding improvements in the mail receipt-and-delivery process. The arrival of new technology and processes are yielding improvements in productivity and efficiency – an important step forward.