Christopher G. Hill, LEED AP is Virginia Supreme Court certified mediator, construction lawyer and owner of the Richmond, VA firm, The Law Office of Christopher G. Hill, PC. Chris has been nominated and elected by his peers to Virginia’s Legal Elite in the Construction Law category on multiple occasions and is a member of the Virginia Super Lawyers “Rising Stars” for 2011 and 2012. He specializes in mechanic’s liens, contract review and consulting, occupational safety issues (VOSH and OSHA), and risk management for construction professionals.
Chris authors the Construction Law Musings blog where he discusses legal and policy issues relevant to construction professionals. Additionally, Chris is active in the Associated General Contractors of Virginia and the Board of Governors of Construction Law and Public Contracts Section of the Virginia State Bar.
Thank you to Martha for allowing me to spend a Friday here at the Advocate’s Studio with her audience. Be sure to head on over to Construction Law Musings to read here great insights into the latest Android based legal applications.
Now, on with the invasion! (insert sound of coconuts knocking together here)
The web is full of references to a “paperless” law practice. First of all, this is a misnomer. No such thing exists, except to the extent that an attorney like me does not keep much in a file cabinet. So long as courts exist and lawyers need to produce paper exhibits for judges to read and rule upon, we attorneys will continue to “kill trees.” Until every courthouse has the capability and the desire to allow “virtual” exhibits and pleadings and to spend the money to make this type of exhibit easy for the average (read non-huge firm) lawyer to present such exhibits in an easily digestible form, paper will be a necessity.
This is not to say that one cannot go mostly paperless in your practice. When I went out on my own over three years ago, I bought a two drawer file cabinet. It started relatively full and now is getting emptier and emptier as the files I brought with me from my old gig are resolved and closed. I went “paperless” by necessity (I’m the only employee of my solo construction practice).
Essentially, the fact that when I’m not sitting in the office no one is “minding the store” so to speak made cloud based access to most documents and e-mail a necessity. Be extension, scanning those documents into my computer and sending them to the “cloud” was a requirement. Couple this with the somewhat fireproof nature of cloud based documents and fact that I hate to look at clutter and you have the motivation to go “paperless.”
So, how to do it? Well, I started with a Brother MFC printer, scanner, fax and a computer. I then upgraded my scanning ability to add a ScanSnap s1500 (since updated to the ix500) so I could scan and OCR (make searchable) documents faster and directly upload them to my Clio practice management software. I also use Acrobat XI to create .pdf letters and pleadings for those cases (luckily most of them) where opposing counsel will accept e-mailed pleadings to avoid having to print and mail the documents.
Of course, the printer gets a workout when I have to prepare deposition or trial exhibit books, but I don’t keep “pleading notebooks” or paper documents. I prefer to send clients .pdf copies for their records and I scan and return original documents provided by my construction clients. In truth, most of the time, my clients provide e-copies of documents that don’t need this treatment.
With these three relatively simple tools (along with Google Apps for e-mail and the occasional use of Google Drive) I can access my practice, bill clients and review documents from anywhere that has an internet connection or from my tablet at home or, if I have to, my phone.
Even as an advocate of paperless practice, don’t go paperless just for the sake of doing it. All of this paperless activity has one primary goal in mind: saving me time on administrative tasks so that I can focus on client service and efficiently provide the type of in person counseling that I like to give my clients. If a paperless idea doesn’t help with this, I don’t use it.
Now, if only I could talk some of my pals at larger firms to quit sending paper my way. . .