15 06, 2022

Understanding Clients’ IG and RIM Best Practices with Cadis Stuart-Hodges

2022-06-15T13:03:30-07:00June 15th, 2022|Paper2Digital Blog|

Understanding Clients’ IG and RIM Best Practices with Cadis Stuart-Hodges

Cadis Stuart-Hodges, IGP, CRM

We spoke with Cadis Stuart Hodges, IGP, CRM, who joined DocSolid earlier this year as Senior Director of Services.  Prior to joining DocSolid, Cadis spent over 15 years inside of law firm’s IG and Records departments and was the Director of Records for Drew, Eckl & Farnham.

Since she joined, Cadis has been overseeing DocSolid’s Consulting and Professional Services divisions, adding value to clients’ IG and RIM best practices for Airmail2 Digital Mailroom and Digital Records Room implementations. We caught up with her to see how her new role is going.

DocSolid:  How do you see your role as Senior Director of Services at DocSolid?

Cadis: I am in the constellation DocSolid management helping to make sure that our implementation staff and our consultants have everything they need to serve our customers. Helping the services staff and even our sales people have a good view of the important parts of the information governance journey for law firms is also part of my day to day. My role is to make sure that our customers have the best experience while also ensuring their Airmail2 and records room solution is an industry best practice for all the firm’s important processes:  IG, records, and security.

DocSolid:  Why is IG, security and records and information management important for a digital mail room?

Cadis: The most important reason is risk  management which is a huge part of the  legal landscape. The thing that you are always trying to do is to keep your risk as low as possible as a law firm. It’s how you build procedures. It’s why you have client guidelines.

Your biggest areas for risk is your client information.  That’s the client’s trust in you, that’s your bread and butter, how you’re working every day. The last thing that you want to do is put a process in place that keeps your client information less secure or exposes you and your client to an external threat that could have been prevented.

The way that IG helps you manage that is by creating and implementing the processes around that information that keep it secure.  You need to know at all times where your data lives, what format it’s in and how you are transmitting that information around your firm.

Airmail2 closes a huge gap in that risk because Airmail2 does not put client information out into your whole system. With Airmail2, you’re putting your information directly where it needs to go–the DMS–because your DMS is where you govern all of your data, all of your document information, all of your client information, your mail ingestion, your emails back and forth, your documents that you produce for work, your client produced documents–all of that is governed in the DMS.

With Airmail2, you’ve got an end to end, auditable process. It gives you the pathway to ingest information and put it directly where it needs to be governed—in the DMS—which reduces a firm’s risk immeasurably.

When you’re doing things in a more hodgepodge way, you’re attaching stuff to email or you’re having people open PDFs on their phones, or they’re forwarding PDFs, or they’re sending a copy to themselves and the entire team. There’s no definitive version of that information. You don’t know who’s going to put it into the DMS or if it will make it there at all.

You avoid all of that by having a definitive copy that is immediately put into the DMS from the Airmail2 system.

 DocSolid: Give us an example of a specific IG challenge that our clients have been facing.

Cadis: A common resistance we face is that people still want a copy of that PDF in their email—when what they really need is what we provide:  a direct link to the DMS that opens the document directly. I think a challenge that we’re currently facing is that people want to have that information on the go and what we help them to understand is that they need their document management systems to be what is available on the go, not PDFs in your email.  Best practice is never to have that PDF in your email at all, this is something that we help firms understand.

DocSolid: Have you had some recent successes in helping some clients improve their IG policy around their digital mail room?

There are several recent success stories at a wide range of firms – from a 100+ attorney firm to one of the world’s largest firms–where DocSolid came in and looked at their process and revamped them all together. These firms were all-in immediately and completely prioritized IG and security of their client information. A key factor, especially in the larger firm, was the top down leadership endorsement of the project which essentially did not allow for deviation from our IG-driven processes for digital mail.

Overall, I am seeing more and more firms understand the importance of the governance piece and that is a victory—for the firms. Security of information is driving it – and the dovetailing of security with governance is a trend we will see more of and a positive one if it pushes firms to implement best practice processes over their sensitive client information.

8 06, 2022

The Great Hubbub: Top 3 Reasons Users Love Airmail2 Hub

2022-06-08T13:20:26-07:00June 8th, 2022|Paper2Digital Blog|

The Great Hubbub:  Top 3 Reasons Users Love Airmail2 Hub

Every day, new paper arrives in law firms in the form of documents delivered by UPS, USPS, or FedEx. Before the pandemic, it was custom to sort and deliver this new paper to the desks of folks responsible for its disposition. That all changed when the pandemic sent us home.  Suddenly, the daily mail was in the office, and we were at home.

Mail There and I’m Here

Firms innovated various workflows to bridge the gap. Email was a popular solution, although fraught with risks and efficiencies. Another solution was to continue delivering paper mail items to vacant desks.  Folks would then commute to the office on occasion to review the mail and send it to the appropriate “storage location” for safe keeping or disposal (the shred bin, the working file at home, or perhaps the file room).  Each “location” represented a separate workflow. Of course, another popular solution was to simply scan the inbound mail and send as an attachment to its recipients.

DocSolid took this as an opportunity to innovate.  We developed a Digital Mailroom solution which delivers daily mail directly to the DMS with email simply used to notify recipients of new mail. These notifications were sort of like hearing the rattle of the mail slot at the front door.

But the problem of the mail and the recipient being in different places still needed to be solved along with the concurrent problem of routing the paper version of the mail items to their appropriate “storage locations.”

The Hub Bub

The team at DocSolid went to work on how to “bridge the gap” between the location of the mail – which still arrives at the office – and the recipient who is working at home who needs to get the mail to the appropriate storage location, whether that is the file room or the document management system.

Bridging the gap meant giving the recipient a way to control the workflow of the paper mail even after it was digitized. The answer: the Hub.

The email “notification” sent by the DocSolid Daily Mail system includes access to a “Hub” which allows the mail recipient to communicate with the mailroom team back in the office where the physical mail resides.

The recipient can send messages to the office team that offer instructions on how to handle the paper mail items. Choices like “discard” or “hold for filing” guide the mailroom team on handling the paper mail. It’s simple and intuitive and helps resolve these 3 common user questions quickly and seamlessly:

#1 – When do I know I have mail to look at?  The Airmail2 system uses email but only when it’s efficient to do so.  It is very efficient to send an email (a notification) to a mail recipient letting them know they have mail (yes, “you’ve got mail”).  The recipient doesn’t need to check for new mail – they’re notified when it arrives.

#2 – How does the recipient “route” the physical paper?  The mailroom back in the office is busy scanning paper mail. The recipient is at home and is notified of new mail – and can examine it in the DMS.  But how does the recipient let the mail room know where to dispose of the mail?  It could be a request to “place on desk” or “forward to records” or “shred” (yes – shred … for the intrepid). The ability to provide this disposition instruction is built into the Airmail2 Hub.

#3 – How does my colleague know about new mail?  The Airmail2 solution supports “pairings” – matching other folks with the mail recipient so that all appropriate folks are notified of new incoming mail. This is managed by the Airmail2 system which can update pairings as they change (for reassignments, vacations, etc.).

26 05, 2022

Optimizing Your Mail and Records Room for the New Reality: Hybrid is Here to Stay

2022-06-08T09:48:19-07:00May 26th, 2022|Paper2Digital Blog|

Optimizing Your Mail and Records Room for the New Reality: Hybrid is Here to Stay

The data from Cushman & Wakefield’s latest report, “Office of the Future Revisited: Three New Realities Shaping Hybrid Workplace Strategies,” suggests that almost half (40%) of the workforce will choose to remain in remote positions for the foreseeable future. If this is true, then law firms need a digital mailroom and digital records room operation that is secure, efficient, and reflects the needs for this new way of life.

Cushman & Wakefield’s report analyzes three new realities:

  • Office Space is Still in Demand
  • Hybrid is Here to Stay
  • Role of the Office has Changed

The data behind of each of these realities has drastic implications for law firms and organizations creating their office workplace strategies moving forward.

As firms begin to create their return to office strategies, it is important to factor in how the data of these realities will impact law firm security, efficiency, and attorney productivity.

Reality One: Office Space is Still in Demand

Demand for office space is finally returning for much of the world—and it is being driven by job creation. The world is seeing employment return to the levels it was before the onset of the pandemic. This accelerated growth is pushing more companies to feel the need to return to office or offer their employees the option to return to pre-pandemic office life.

Reality Two: Hybrid is Here to Stay

As organizations and firms create their return to office strategy, one thing is becoming clear: It is time to embrace hybrid. Instead of forcing attorneys and staff back into the office, firm and office leaders must cultivate a common understanding that will optimize employee experience for the limited time that staff is working in-house.

Reality 3: The Role of the Office has Changed

As the office becomes a less permanent staple in the lives of employees, the role of the physical office continues to evolve. Most organizations believe the office is now a place that can cultivate and build culture which can be used to inspire creativity and innovation. With that being said, this shift in mind set, coupled with the realization that hybrid is here to stay, is deemphasizing individuals and their dedicated desks. Instead, offices are focusing more on collaborative spaces and desk sharing.

The Normal NowTM

While these three realities are distinct, they are not all exclusive of one another. All three affirm that the workforce will dictate the next steps for law firms and organizations. While the workforce retains the leverage, hybrid is here to stay according to the data in Cushman and Wakefield’s report.

At the time of the report’s release, there are over 11 million job openings coupled with a 3.6% unemployment rate. The demand to fill roles has provided workers with the leverage to demand workplace flexibility like a hybrid schedule or work from home.

As of the last quarter of 2021 nearly half (40%) of the workforce indicated that they would prefer to never work full-time in office. One fifth of the workforce indicated that they would be open to a hybrid option. With 40% of the workforce stating that they would prefer to never work in office full-time. It is imperative for firms and organizations to create a hybrid workplace strategy that works well for employees and operationally.

A Best Practice Digital Mailroom and Records Room for a Hybrid Workforce

As attorneys and staff change the way they work, the delivery of client mail and requests for physical matter files must change as well. Scan-to-email work arounds that were put in place when the workforce first went remote were only tolerable as stop-gap emergency measures because they present real security risks.

Daily mail is mission critical because it contains client information that is confidential and time sensitive. Attorneys and staff working from home need a reliable, secure method for digital delivery. A daily mail process that relies on the conventional scan-to-email approach is not secure because it was never designed for this purpose.

A best practice digital mailroom operation delivers mail directly into the document management system (DMS) where sensitive client information is kept secure and governed according to firm policy. A best practice digital records room is similar, building a digitization project for scanning large volumes of paper records and storing them in the DMS.

Security is just one of many reasons why law firms need to design a digital mailroom. It is also essential to keep attorneys and staff productive, no matter where they choose to work.

Airmail2 Digital Mailroom and Digital Records Room are direct-to-DMS solutions with certified integrations for iManage and NetDocuments. Transform your firm’s paper-based mailroom and records room functions into streamlined, digital operations with a flexible design that supports work-from-home, hybrid, and return-to-office strategies.

Read the full report by Cushman & Wakefield Here

6 04, 2022

Top Information Governance Principles for your Mailroom

2022-04-06T06:09:23-07:00April 6th, 2022|Paper2Digital Blog|

Top Information Governance Principles for your Mailroom

Do Information Governance principles now apply to your firm’s mailroom?

Mail has been a perfunctory function aligned with other physical office services, but the pandemic shifted mail to a critical, and digital operation.

Mail workflows include sensitive client information, launch new work, and therefore often billable activity. This means matter-centric record creation is starting right from mail delivery, not later, from a pile on a desk, even if it be a digital pile on a virtual desk. Protection and integrity of client information has always been a part of our client agreements. Scanning to a digital format does not negate our obligations to sort this information correctly at the beginning of the process.

Since scanning and document description is involved, it is more technical as well. This brings in issues of data compliance and availability but also transparency and accountability from new processes created for the mail distribution. In short, no matter who this process belongs to organizationally, it needs to be a part of your well thought out Information Governance policy, and refined on an ongoing basis, just like any other records management.

Let’s simplify to just three areas of focus for your current digital or ‘soon to be digital’ mailroom operation. Below the 8 “generally accepted record keeping principles” registered as the “The Principles” by ARMA, have been highlighted for you in the areas of focus.

Stakeholder Consultation.  This all-important key sponsorship ties the Digital Mailroom (DMR) to the firm’s ever-growing maturity on conversion to digital matter files.

Setting attorney expectations of ‘maximum electronic delivery and storage’ for overall firm efficiency helps create the all-important buy-in. The greatest success of a mailroom modernization project is standardization across all locations and practice areas which cannot be achieved without strong firm leadership.

A documented, smooth-running mailroom can only be achieved with a design driven by:

  • Accountability from senior management, and
  • Transparency of purpose toward overall law firm record keeping goals.

Protection of Sensitive Data.  This concept is paramount in today’s legal environment (See the current LIFGS white paper on Client Information Governance Requests[i]). Monitoring and auditing tools such as logs of mailroom processes must be used to ‘trust and verify’ as well as safely satisfy internal, as well as external, compliance and potential audit criteria.

Much law firm mail will end up classified as a record, so every bit of accurate metadata added along the way adds integrity to these document classifications and the overall process. Adding further to the integrity, records policy can be amended to start in the mailroom, rather than documenting records only at the time of transfer to longer term storage repositories.

Comprehensive Chain of Custody.  Firms must maintain a comprehensive chain of custody– ‘cradle to grave’ – from mail receipt and opening, sorting/naming/scanning, through a short physical retention and shredding.

In cases of, admittedly, necessary secondary physical delivery, we must minimize and document that process. Adding documentation at this step like “We mark here in the log we were asked to drop it to a desk after scanning the envelope,” is crucial to maintaining the chain of custody in these situations.

Providing fast and appropriate availability of mail items along the way to careful and documented disposition, makes the law firm more competitive, as well as providing a defensible protection strategy for key client and law firm files.

[i] https://www.ironmountain.com/resources/whitepapers/h/how-the-landscape-has-changed

28 02, 2022

6 Tips to Optimize Attorney Productivity with Digital Mail

2022-02-28T07:35:24-07:00February 28th, 2022|Featured, Paper2Digital Blog|

6 Tips to Optimize Attorney Productivity with Digital Mail

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

2 02, 2022

Law Firms Must Transform Mailrooms as 40% of First-Class Mail Will Now Take Longer

2022-03-10T08:08:06-07:00February 2nd, 2022|Featured, Paper2Digital Blog|

Law Firms Must Transform Mailrooms as 40% of First-Class Mail Will Now Take Longer

Law firms throughout the country are still being held back by one thing — paper. Postal mail and a law firm’s mailroom have logistical challenges on a scale we simply never saw before 2019. The traditional format of a mailroom creates a significant bottleneck in attorney productivity as presently constructed because they were never designed to support the new realities of work from home with a hybrid workforce. As if that wasn’t causing enough pain already, the United States Postal Service (USPS) recently introduced new service standards that will only make things worse.

USPS Mail Delivery TruckAt the end of 2021, the USPS changed the services standards for first-class mail. These changes have resulted in lengthened delivery times for 40% of first-class mail and packages. This means time-sensitive law firm and client documents delivered through the USPS could take up to five days to arrive, instead of the standard two days.

The new service standards are not only affecting delivery times, but also price. First-class standard sized mail and large envelopes such as letters, bills, and statements are all seeing about a 10 percent increase in price. These changes are all a part of current Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy’s 10-year Delivering for America plan to tackle the agency’s massive debt.

For people operating outside of a law firm’s mailroom, these changes may seem inconsequential, but the slower delivery times are a new risk factor that will impact a law firm’s ability to get inbound mail routed internally on time. Law firms are critically dependent on paper mail from clients, courts, opposing counsel and research sources. Postal mail delivered to a law firm will often mandate a calendared response, contain sensitive client information, or contain information that is critical for a court case or essential to the progress of an active matter.

The question now stands: With a distributed workforce and the physical mail slowing down,
can a law firm afford to operate this way?

Clearly no. To combat potential delays, firms are now able to implement a best practice digital mailroom solution that serves the entire firm as a reliable, efficient, and SLA-based operation that consistently provides the fastest and most secure method of delivery possible. It will have an immediate impact and offers enduring value to the firm because it involves a critical component of attorney-client communications. Attorneys and their clients will notice this difference. Speed wins.

A best practice digital mailroom is designed as a seamless, efficient digital operation with batched workflow steps, built-in quality controls (QC), and direct-to-DMS delivery with configurable routing rules as needed for different types of documents.

The solution is the Airmail2 Digital Mailroom software by DocSolid with certified DMS integrations. DocSolid deploys Airmail2 with best practice workflows designed for law firms to solve the productivity and logistics problems of inbound mail delivered by the post office or couriers. It also aligns with information governance policies because it works with the firm’s existing document management system (DMS) to store matter files and sensitive information where they belong right from the start… in the DMS where it is profiled, protected and governed.

Simplistic scan-to-email methods are not sufficient. Paper mail should not just be piled on top of office desks. Makeshift mail scanning is just a fire drill on the way to becoming a train wreck because a completely different approach is needed to meet the needs of a hybrid workforce. Don’t wait for slower postal mail and unforeseen outcomes to negatively impact the quality and speed of service at your law firm.

19 01, 2022

QC for Digital Mail in Law Firms

2022-03-02T13:48:25-07:00January 19th, 2022|Paper2Digital Blog|

QC for Digital Mail in Law Firms

In law firms, Quality Control (QC) occurs as part of various processes: Conflicts Checking, Proof Reading, and Citation Checking are just a few examples. But rarely do we apply QC measures to a law firm process like document scanning.

The Remote Workforce is Transforming the Back Office

With the advent of the pandemic, law firms have been adapting the back-office to better support remote working. Finance, HR, Marketing and most other back-office functions including the Mailroom, now work with remote teams and serve internal customers who are also working remotely.

It is now typical that incoming mail is routinely digitized to facilitate distribution to the remote workforce. The digitized mail can easily be delivered to the firm’s document management system and to attorneys and staff working remotely. In this new digital process, it is essential to apply QC measures.

Here’s why:

  • Quality Control Assures High Quality of Scanned Documents

Scanning equipment has become much more reliable over the years. Common problems like double-feeds are less common, but they do occur, along with skewed pages, and errors introduced by humans like mis-ordered pages.  As part of the Mailroom process, checking the quality of each scanned document will eliminate poor quality documents making their way through the process.

  • Quality Control Assures Accuracy of Metadata related to Scanned Documents

In a digital mailroom process, documents are cataloged as to recipient or other relevant information. Part of the QC process is to review this metadata to assure its accuracy.

  • Quality Control Engenders Confidence in the Digitization Process

A key benefit of the digital mailroom is to shred the paper after the QC step. Shredding only happens when recipients have confidence in the image (scan) quality and accuracy of the metadata. But if this confidence is gained, then firms can dispense with delivering or retaining the paper version of the incoming mail.

Implementing Quality Control

Let’s look at the digital mailroom and implementing quality control. There are 5 steps in a quality control regime.

  • Apply a Unique Identifier to Each Document

To effectively manage the QC process, each document should be identified with a unique identifier.  This “fingerprint” will assure that each document can be tracked from initial processing through disposition in the document management system and will provide a full-proof way to link the electronic and physical versions of a document.

  • Create a Written Document That Defines Quality

Quality is determined by how it is defined and measured. A quality document is a single source which guides the quality control process. It takes the guesswork out of the quality control objectives in your firm.

  • Develop Procedures

Employees work best when they have specific step-by-step procedures to follow. In the example of the digital mailroom, you should define which documents are checked and how they are checked.  This will define whether all documents are checked or just a subset as well as whether to include steps like ‘survey thumbnails’, ‘compare first and last page’, ‘compare page counts’, or ‘compare every page’.

  • Develop Instructions

Once procedures are established, they should be documented in step-by-step instructions sufficient to guide even the new members of the quality control team.

  • Collect Data

A very valuable component of a QC process is the opportunity to collect data, which can then be used to refine the imaging process. Are there higher error rates with certain scanning equipment? Are there common issues like pages out of order (a document-prep issue perhaps)? Is double-sided vs single-sided scanning creating errors? Is color captured appropriately? Data can be your guide to a more efficient process.

This article will guide you in implementing a quality control process in your digital mailroom.

10 01, 2022

New Design Thinking for Law Firms’ Digital Mail and Records Operations

2022-01-14T09:31:22-07:00January 10th, 2022|Featured, Paper2Digital Blog|

New Design Thinking for Law Firms’ Digital Mail and Records Operations

What is Design Thinking?

At its core, design thinking is a human-centered process for creative problem solving that encourages organizations to keep a focus on the key stakeholders the current problem involves. If implemented correctly, design thinking leads to more innovation, better products, services, and internal processes.

When an issue arises that requires a solution, a top question should always be, “What’s the actual human perspective behind this solution?” Design thinking defines the creative process for non-creatives and creatives alike by using a systems approach.

System Thinking:

  • Ask the right questions to solve any problem and properly identify the underlying challenges.
  • Visualize and organize information effectively to foster creative collaboration.
  • Involve the necessary stakeholders who the problems affect.

Why do Law Firms Need Design Thinking?

Law firms find themselves facing unique challenges due to the pandemic. Work from home, hybrid work situations, and return to office planning and implementation are disrupting operations in ways that just were not a consideration before the COVID-19 pandemic. Not to mention, ever-evolving security threats and the complex nature of information governance. The costs and inefficiencies that permeate from paper records rooms and offsite storage are problems that can be solved with a design thinking mindset. The value proposition of office space is a driving force of change, but while some firms are right sizing for a smaller real estate footprint, others must contend with new challenges from growth.

Design thinking processes can benefit law firms as they prepare to tackle these issues in a dynamic business environment that is unprecedented in the history of modern law firms. Law firms need to start asking the right kind of questions, involve the people directly affected, and create innovative solutions that address the following topics:

  • Work From Home
    • How can internal office operations or contracted facilities management process daily mail more efficiently and securely by re-designing the mailroom to become a digital mailroom?
  • Office Restack, Consolidation, and Expansion
    • How can law firms eliminate the paper footprint and need of physical records rooms?
    • How can law firms eliminate costs and put a stop to the flow of physical records into offsite storage?
  • Security
    • What are actionable steps law firms can take to reduce the risk of evolving security threats targeting law firms and their sensitive documents?
    • How can the process of mail distribution and records storage become more efficient and secure?
  • Adapt to Change
    • The COVID-19 pandemic affected all businesses. What solutions can law firms put in place that will have an immediate impact and enduring value to address environmental and systemic threats?

Applying Design Thinking to a Specific Problem:  Paper-based Mail and Records

As we roll into the new year, many firms are still being held back by one thing: paper, and this includes the mailrooms and postal mail. Current solutions to deliver daily mail were rapidly cobbled together and they have allowed law firms to get by during the COVID-19 pandemic, but as presently constructed, they are not long-term solutions, because they were never designed to be. It is important to acknowledge the heroic efforts that were put in place while understanding those were stop-gap measures that urgently need a permanent, more durable, and more efficient workflow. For many firms, the ringing of a new year is a wakeup call to fix this problem, but digitizing daily mail is a different sort of problem for law firms and that’s where design thinking helps.

Legal mail items contain sensitive client information. The quick fix has been scan-to-email, but this method involves high-security risks that puts the law firm and the client’s information at risk. A best practice Digital Mailroom operation negates risk completely by delivering mail directly to the digital management system (DMS) where sensitive client information can be properly filed according to the law firm’s information governance policies. A best practice Digital Records Room operates in a similar fashion by building a digitization project for scanning large volumes of physical records and storing them in the DMS.

These best practices focus on eliminating a law firms paper footprint by reducing costs and inefficiencies. The results are essential digital workflows that are better by design. Law firms not only save on unnecessary costs, but also create the ability to keep attorneys and staff productive no matter if they are work from home, in a hybrid work environment, or working in office.

Not only are these problems capable of being solved—they already have been. DocSolid’s Airmail2 Digital Mail + Records completely transforms a law firm’s paper-centric mail and records into digital operations that support work from home and return to office strategies.

The Airmail2 software provides law firms with digital delivery of sensitive and time-dependent mail and file requests with digital delivery into the DMS, allowing firms to distribute information fast and securely.

Daily Mail Digital Delivery Flowchart

Daily Mail Digital Delivery Flowchart

Client Requirements

In design thinking, identifying the key stakeholders is the first step in being able to properly create innovative solutions for them. For Digital Mailrooms, the key stakeholders who most need a robust solution are attorneys, mailroom operators, and records managers.

Attorneys: Mail Notifications

From the perspective of attorneys and legal administrative assistants, the most critical element of digital mail is the inbound email message that confirms when new mail gets delivered to them digitally into the document management system. This email message needs to be fast, informative, and immediately actionable when necessary.

Airmail2 notifications include a secure link to the digital document, a thumbnail image, and information about the mail item that enables recipients to make decisions and take next steps, including whether the physical mail needs to be kept for legal record keeping purposes. Attorneys always have the option to flag any physical mail item they want kept, but it is getting rare for that to be required by a government entity or the 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 the digital document. This better facilitates any further work on the related matter. Delivery of digital mail is faster because it eliminates all worker location constraints that are the result of handling physical mail manually. For example, a law firm spending $3,000 per month to pay for courier drivers to deliver physical mail to attorneys working at home fails to compare, of course. Speed wins.

Mailroom operators:  Simplicity and Reliability

From the mailroom perspective, this work is thankless drudgery, so they need help with repetitive portions of this time sensitive task. The Airmail2 software enables quick labeling of each item based on information visible on the envelope. Everything else is pre-configured according to routing rules in the software.

Scanning and quality control can be done separately to batch the work with simple checklists. When the operator is done, they need to verify the delivery status, image quality and page counts. That mail delivery session is then closed, and the operator starts the next one. If needed, they can easily go back to retrieve and fix a mail item. Paper handling is constrained within a few feet of the front door rather than travelling further inside the building. Or worse, travelling miles further outside the building. Most importantly, the documents get to their intended recipients fast.

Records Managers: Integration with the Matter File

For Records Managers, the requirements are to clear the clutter and capture the true documents as early as possible in the digital matter file. As mentioned, the requirement to retain a physical document are rare— once and done is the name of the game for records and retention compliance. With permission to shred after scan and with reasonable quality controls, Mailroom and Information Governance (IG) staff can focus on efficiency: careful identification and training on naming conventions and any exceptions to the firm’s scan and shred policy.

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.

Conclusion:

Law firms have unique requirements and no two are exactly alike, but this is the reason why design thinking is the smart way to achieve your goals. DocSolid uses the principles of design thinking to develop the Airmail2 Digital Mailroom and Digital Records Room software and supplies. These are proven solutions with certified DMS integrations for iManage and NetDocuments. Are you looking to adopt a best practice because your law firm needs to deploy a mission critical Paper2Digital Transformation like this? DocSolid Design is leading the way.

15 12, 2021

Client Requirements for a Digital Mailroom Solution – Who Cares?

2022-01-14T09:22:59-07:00December 15th, 2021|Paper2Digital Blog|

Client Requirements for a Digital Mailroom Solution – Who Cares?

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.

18 11, 2021

The Top 3 Reasons to Build a Digital Records Room

2022-03-02T13:49:36-07:00November 18th, 2021|Paper2Digital Blog|

The Top 3 Reasons to Build a Digital Records Room

The fiscal year for law firms is ending on a high note—with more to come. Thomson Reuters’ most recent data shows that a solid majority of firms (70%) predict that the moderate to high growth in demand experienced in 2021 will continue well into 2022. Regarding operational planning for 2022, the top 5 tactics law firms will take are:

  1. More efficient real estate/rethinking space;
  2. New practice tools to drive efficiencies;
  3. Rationalizing secretarial support;
  4. Improving billing and collections; and
  5. More technology.

Clearly, many if not most firms are abuzz with talk regarding a more efficient or reconfigured use of their current real estate footprint—but what does it take to achieve this vision of the future? One thing that can hold a law firm back from the new-“visioning” taking place is paper—and the shocking amount of real estate most firms currently dedicate to housing an onsite records room.

As a part of firms’ strategic thinking for 2022, firms need a strategy for onsite paper, i.e. their onsite records rooms. This is a digital records room, and it’s way past due. A digital records room is a firm-wide system of software, workflow and services, to digitize paper records to the DMS, replacing paper file rooms with a new digital operation.

A digital records room supports the firm’s strategic plan to reduce and rethink real estate by eliminating the paper footprint of records rooms and scattered file storage. It is also used to service attorneys working from home more efficiently—and does so more securely and in line with the firm’s information governance policy. Let’s dig in to these 3 reasons to build a digital records room.

1. Efficiency and Productivity of Attorneys

When records are digitizedrecords retrieval is transformed and dramatically improved for the end users—the attorneys. Records managers no longer must rifle through shelves to locate boxes, and then sort through to find the right manila folder to locate the actual document, taking valuable time away from the attorneys’ review.

The records are digitized typically through a scanning and cataloging process that associates keywords or matter numbers or other valuable data within a document enabling users to search on what they know to produce a list of possible matches. Results are produced in seconds or minutes versus hours, or even days.

In a hybrid operation which most firms are planning on, this process becomes even more simplified as records retrieved would need to be shipped offsite to individual attorneys’ home offices, a logistical and security nightmare.

A tertiary benefit is quickly realized through this process of digitizing records, which is that the record can be queried using a full-text searching tool. A full-text search tool can usually be combined with another search tool letting users add criteria like matter number or keyword to zero-in on the exact document needed. Not only this, but digitization helps firms unlock the the information in their matters so they become searchable. Firms are in an improved position for their knowledge management processes, and attorneys are able to search and find prior work product more quickly. This is simply not possible unless your records are digitized.

Another significant benefit of a digitized records room that directly benefits attorney’s efficiency and productivity is the ability to back up and make copies of the files. Duplicating an entire physical records room is simply not feasible. Once documents are digitized, however, they are easily copied and thus protected against accidental destruction from flood, fire, or even accidental discard.

2. Security and Information Governance

With a physical records room, the effort to share useful documents securely and within the firm’s IG policy is significant. With a physical records room, firms must apply physical security to restrict access. This means locking file cabinets, keycard systems, and other similar measures, which require time and attention. And with a physical records room, it is daunting to locate the proper files for destruction.

In a hybrid operation, the security of physical records put the firm at an even greater risk—greater risk of lost or compromised files in transit; greater risk of logistical errors, greater risk of exposure as files move through various domains not directly monitored by the firm.

With a digitized records room, a firm’s documents are cataloged using a retention schedule, and destruction of the appropriate files is simply reporting, approving and then automatically deleting files.

Once digitized, firms can apply common computer security measures to control who sees what documents. This sort of security can be organized globally, by type of document, by case, author or any other criteria as needed by the firm’s policies.

3. Real Estate Reduction

Finally, an obvious benefit of digitization is the elimination of real estate dedicated to the storing of onsite records. Law firms routinely recover hundreds or even thousands of square feet of valuable floor space when they digitize their records.

Real estate is the second biggest expense for a law firm. As firms aggressively roll out their real estate compression plans, they must eliminate the floor space required for records rooms and ad hoc paper file storage.

The majority of firms spend approximately 6-8% of gross revenue on real estate costs in major metropolitan areas. Cushman & Wakefield projects that firms will be able to save as much as 3.5% of revenue by renegotiating their leases.

Firms can run projects to digitize the existing records rooms in each city office, then apply the same solution to maintaining ongoing digitization of new paper records as they are received and used.

Conclusion

The concept of a digital records room has appealed to firm leadership and IG professionals for some time. Everyone understands how paper records make firms less agile. The substantial costs, risks and inefficiencies of paper records just keep accumulating. This impedes profitability and growth on many fronts. For firms that have been waiting for a business case to win the project with their executive committees, now’s the time.

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