Legal practices which use paper to maintain an official matter file put themselves and their clients at risk. Rather, if the firm digitizes records in the normal course of business, the paper records can be shredded and with them, their associated costs and risk.
This Los Angeles Times article offers a vivid example. The new president of a California homeowners’ association recounts how they replaced the group’s attorney of more than 30 years, and discovered that all records older than 10 years had been destroyed without notifying the association’s board.
In response, authors Donnie Vanitzian, an arbitrator, and attorney Zachary Levine offer the new HOA president options for possible legal resolution as the association seeks the return of its records. They note that it’s common for legal engagement letters to specify that records may be archived, then destroyed after specified periods of time.
While the relevant state law doesn’t address how long an attorney must retain client files, they say “every attorney has a duty to return client files on request absent a prior agreement.”
Digitized records are an obvious solution, and DocSolid’s Paper2Digital solutions enable a seamless workflow for eliminating these kinds of problems, and driving a full electronic matter file within a firm’s document management system (DMS).
KwikTag Legal, an integrated scanning platform which embeds capture within law firms’ existing document management software, manages inbound paper from the first point of entry, through a scanning and profiling process, with built-in quality control checks to enable confident shredding.
Postmark identifies paper documents that have been printed in-house from an electronic document already filed in the DMS. Postmark prints a small bar code in a corner of the document. This bar code branding on the paper denotes that a corresponding electronic copy is filed in the DMS. After the paper document is used, it can be destroyed instead of filed at any stage of the paper lifecycle. Postmark alone can reduce a firm’s filed paper records by 50-70%.
As records are digitized, a firm can then update its engagement letter, informing clients that it keeps an electronic matter file in the DMS, and that an electronic copy is available upon matter closing. It can also note that any papers of record that have not been scanned into the DMS will also be provided at closing.
The updated letter should also specify that all matter material will be maintained for a prescribed time period and then destroyed. It can provide for a second notice to the client as well. The update should also specify that the firm does not house the client’s original paper documents and describe how it scans them upon receipt, incorporating them into the DMS, then promptly returns the originals.
Document retention problems like the one faced by this homeowners’ association can create costly, time-consuming disputes, but DocSolid’s Paper2Digital practice easily prevents them from arising in the first place.
Today, the majority of enterprises are pursuing a ‘paper to digital’ strategy as part of their digital transformation programmes. However interestingly, many will admit that the strategy hasn’t led to a significant reduction in paper in their business, which is a key objective of such initiatives alongside making cost savings and enhancing data security. The key reason why their efforts are proving to be ineffective is a lack of a complete, end-to-end paper lifecycle and retirement management strategy. This has major implications for the upcoming EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance too and unfortunately, organisations are inadvertently putting their businesses at extreme risk of non-compliance with this regulation in the absence of such an approach.
Research by DocSolid reveals an interesting scenario, albeit in the legal sector, but one that is likely representative of other professional services and mainstream enterprises too. 57% of all paper in law firms is a printout of existing electronic files stored in their document management system (DMS).
To read the full article by Roy Russell in ITProPortal, click here.
In DocSolid’s 2016 IG-Records Survey, it was found that 57% of a firm’s formally-filed paper documents were printed directly from the firm’s own paperless document management system. That percentage would grow another 39% if you gathered up all the other DMS-printed paper that is scattered around the firm — on lawyers’ desks, in secretary workstations, and in hallway boxes.
So, if we already have these documents properly stored in the DMS, why do we print, file, store, and archive them as paper?
To start, we print because many attorneys like to work with paper. That is why almost all law firms still run enormous paper filing operations. We keep filing, refiling, moving, and storing DMS-printed paper documents because the filing staff, and even the attorney, aren’t sure if the corresponding electronic version is in the DMS. The paper is filed, and the print-file-store-archive cycle continues.
Two years ago, Lindquist moved to a fully electronic matter file, and the benefits continue to flow both in the service of our clients and back to the firm, providing substantial savings, productivity and information governance. Here’s a look at what we did.
The process began by accommodating a small group of attorneys who wanted increased mobility and access to their files from remote locations. Their success created momentum within the firm to move to a fully electronic matter file, which we did in January of 2015.
To create the fully electronic matter file, Lindquist needed a productive solution for scanning and integrating documents into the document management system (DMS). Lindquist selected KwikTag Legal because it is an integrated scanning solution that embeds within our existing application software. It manages related paper digitally and scans directly to our existing DMS.