Can I increase efficiency by becoming a paperless law firm?

Published On: December 22, 2020

We have recently seen a significant rise in people working from home due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It has resulted in most firms having to change the way that they operate to minimise the amount of staff on furlough and keep the business running smoothly. This may have come as a shock to firms who have always run in a traditional paper-based manner for their source information, files and documentation. In this article I highlight the benefits of switching to a paper-light/paperless way of working.

I suggest the place to start is the firm’s IT system. Is this outmoded or does it already have the document management functionality and you aren’t using it? If the former, start to make enquiries with software providers to see how they can assist. Ensure that you get your accounts team involved with this, as any software change will directly affect them. Also, speak to your staff and explain how the firm is looking to make a change to paperless thus allowing more flexibility within the firm. It is important from the outset to get the staff on board as they are going to have to run with the change every day. If the software you already use has document management functionality, speak to your provider and get some training on how best to use the system that you are already paying for. Learn as much as possible and try to apply the training to the types of work that the firm undertakes so that you are maximising its functionality from the start.

I then recommend having a think about how documents will be accessed via your system. Can the system be accessed from a website on the cloud or will it require a login via a remote desktop or VPN? How easy will it be for staff to access what they require and how easy is it to upload/add documents to the system? Crucially it needs to be as easy or easier to operate than the paper-based approach. Having staff lose faith in the new strategy is not helpful, so during all of this, speak to them and discuss with them their concerns and thoughts on the process.

Think about:

  • The security and access on the system
  • Where the data is stored
  • What formats can be stored
  • The file sizes that can be stored
  • How easily can documents be uploaded
  • Whether there is Microsoft Office integration
  • Whether the system produces documents and letters
  • Does it integrate with standard forms?
  • Does the system integrate with other services like search providers or the Legal Aid Agency?
  • Can the system accommodate accounts requests?
  • Can the system produce digital reports which can be exported?

When moving to a paperless solution naturally the firm needs to ensure that it is not only saving paper but is becoming more efficient as-a-whole by doing so. Consideration of the above bullet points will ensure that life is easier using a paperless system than a paper one.

Once the system has been implemented, your staff will be able to work from home or on the move much more easily. Many cloud-based solutions allow the user to operate on a phone or tablet as well as a laptop, meaning that even after restrictions end, staff can continue to work remotely. It allows for more flexible working as the fee-earners have everything they require at their fingertips rather than having to be in an office, carrying around a weighty paper file. Forms can be completed and sent quickly with software integrations, letters can be written and sent out without having to print anything and making use of digital signatures and all of the data is backed up and much safer than having a file which can get lost or destroyed. There are also systems which allow the client to login to a portal and view their files which are stored by the solicitor, saving even more time and making the client experience much better.

I set out below a brief summary of why becoming paperless should be a strong consideration for 2020/2021.

  • Documents are secure and backed up.
  • The digital files can be accessed from anywhere, aiding in remote/flexible working.
  • Documents are less likely to be lost.
  • The system can generate documents faster than lengthy off system/paper-based options.
  • Office 365 integration often time records all emails automatically, saving time and saves that correspondence automatically to the digital file.
  • Standard documents that are already written and filled out by the system save time as opposed to manually adding details when off-system.
  • It saves on paper, toner, copier leases & electricity making the overall process cheaper and greener!

I recommend that if you currently utilise a paper system, you seriously consider how a paperless version could help your business become more efficient, secure, happier and cheaper to run.


Alex Simons
New Business Manager
The Law Factory LLP