Stop printing your emails – the iPad’s a game changer!

Jason
paper

A big pile of paper!

Law firms print paper, in fact they print LOTS of paper! I recently heard of a secretary printing off 6-8 inches of paper for the file (you know you’re printing a lot when your margin of error is 2 inches!!). I am therefore pretty sure that the cost of printing is rather significant cost for law firms.

So why on earth do it? There are two main reasons I’ve come across:

1) Keeping a good and proper file

“All the emails and documents must be printed for a paper file, it’s been like that for years and it isn’t changing on my watch.”

Come on, there isn’t any reason to do this. It’s not a regulatory requirement to keep a paper file, a good and proper file yes, but that file can be electronic. The only reason I could understand is maybe in a small firm, one that doesn’t have a document management system (DMS) to organise the electronic file. But why are lawyers in medium and large firms still doing this? Do people think it’s more secure? Well it’s not, not even in the slightest. An electronic file will be backed up a number of times with all documents and emails in a number of locations for security. A paper file is in one place and there is just one copy of it. Damien Behan’s article here sums up nicely the increased risks of keeping paper based files.

I really can’t see the need to print off reams of email, if you must still keep a paper file just put in a file note indicating the location of the emails in the DMS. But save the paper and the cost (of the paper, storage and secretarial time) and don’t print them off!

2) It’s easier to use paper

Now this is where I can agree with the lawyers, shifting through paper copies of email to locate the correct one can often be much easier. The average DMS (and even Outlook) doesn’t make it easy to wade through vast numbers of emails.

I posted the why print question to lawyers on twitter recently and got a good comment in reply that backs up my view from @ljanstis

“paper can be read anywhere – in court, with client, on the the road. Can’t guarantee that if just in electronic form”

And here is where I do a big u-turn on a previous article and lay out what I think could be the answer for lawyers – the iPad! I’ve been reading peninsulalawyer’s blogs on his first impressions (here and here) of his iPad as a tool for lawyers and I’m more and more convinced that it’s going to be a game changer in legal.

For legal IT departments I think there will soon be a trickle of requests either to provide iPads or at least enable them to access the corporate network and as with the iPhone the trickle will become a stream and I’m betting an eventual torrent as people see the possibilities of this device.

Imagine. You could use some of the functionality of Adobe Acrobat 9, it’s email archiving feature that allows you to convert email in Outlook into a PDF Portfolio (a Portfolio contains PDFs of email messages which in turn contain the attachments to the message). You could put this PDF portfolio onto the iPad and browse through your emails with ease. As peninsulalawyer says in his post:

“I could zoom in on a PDF document on a netbook, scroll backwards and forwards and highlight text, but the speed and ease of doing this on the iPad is like nothing I have ever seen on a laptop or notebook.”

This could be the perfect tool to finally eradicate the piles of paper from a law firm. For a firm of 1000 lawyers it would cost under £500k to provide an iPad for each lawyer. And if that sounds a lot I suggest you find out your printing costs, I wouldn’t be suprised if it suddenly looks a good deal!

ipad

iPad

And yes, to all those that know me well, I do realise it’s an Apple! 🙂

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13 Responses to “Stop printing your emails – the iPad’s a game changer!”

  • Danny O'Connor Says:

    Absolutely, you can’t beat flicking through paper to find something – it’s like the rings in a tree, you know roughly where something is (usually how deep it’s buried on your desk !)

    An ipad (or future equivalent – Microsoft’s Courier looked like it had great potential before they announced it as vapourware) gives the ‘flickability’ in an electronic format which, whilst not identical to navigating through a paper file is close enough an experience, and carries sufficient extra benefits, to make the leap away from paper

    So, come on Autonomy ! (they did briefly mention the ipad at the user group meeting yesterday at SJ Berwin’s offices)

  • Peninsulawyer Says:

    Interesting post (and not just because of the great source material!).

    I would be interested to try this, but not so keen in investing in Adobe 9 as it is a bit on the expensive side.

    If you can persuade your IT department it is easy enough to connect to your Exchange server using the iPad, but I can see how this would be an easy way of viewing all the emails on a particular matter for example.

    If anyone gets this to work on the iPad I would be interested to see some screenshots

  • Josh @ TabletLegal.com Says:

    I use my iPad With my firm’s Exchange server. After relevant emails are stored to our firm DMS, I toss the email into a folder labeled “Client Archive”. No subfolders for matters – just one archive. That folder syncs with my iPad. I then use search to access recent correspondence while on the go. This isn’t a substitute for a true mobile electronic file, but it keeps me productive when out of the office.

    I also use apps like GoodReader and services like Dropbox to have more of what I need with me at all times. With my practice anyway, I don’t need to have access to all file materials at all times. I do need the relevant stuff and the iPad lets me access and transport it easily.

  • iPad and law – the next steps | Work/Life/Law Says:

    […] iPad and law – the next steps Posted on 5 June 2010 by lanstis In the UK, Peninsulawyer advances the discussion here and here and Jason Plant shows the way to paperless working here. […]

  • Josh Kerr Says:

    You might want to try http://zosh.com for filling and signing documents on the go.

  • John Acey Says:

    What’s really needed is a read and write device – something akin to a combined ipad and tablet PC. Being able to hand write notes electronically would sure be a bonus.

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  • jurisC (outsourcing service for Conveyancers) Says:

    In my experience, printed emails in the file are essential file for evidential purposes in the event of a claim and the insurers require the file.

  • jurisC (outsourcing service for Conveyancers) Says:

    Paper copies of emails are important for evidential purposes in the event of a claim against the file when either the client or the insurer requests a complete copy of the file. Also when there is an audit of the files and the person carrying out the audit takes files randomly without informing the fee earner.

  • Danny O'Connor Says:

    “In my experience, printed emails in the file are essential file for evidential purposes in the event of a claim and the insurers require the file.”

    Why ?

    If someone needs the file, you can just print it out straight from the DMS. The Law Society no longer require a paper file to be kept, but a ‘complete’ file – how and where it’s stored is irrelevant.

    “Paper copies of emails are important for evidential purposes in the event of a claim against the file when either the client or the insurer requests a complete copy of the file”

    Again, why ?

    an email is an electronic document, it can be printed at any time, and on multiple occasions. Why store it in paper format when you can produce a copy in this medium if and when it’s required ?

    “Also when there is an audit of the files and the person carrying out the audit takes files randomly without informing the fee earner” – This is precisely the reason keeping the ‘master’ file in electronic form is safer. Anyone can walk up to your files and take something, then potentially not return all the paper within it. When do you realise important paperwork is missing if it’s not a frequently used file ? When the proverbial is about to hit the fan probably !

  • Free Lawyer Consultation Says:

    It’s interesting – in well established industries like ours there is always a little push back against changing ‘the way of things’.

    Paper files are like an old friend that you always know you have sitting right there. Something about the intangibility of e-files causes concern for some folk, especially those that have been practicing the same way for decades.

    The easier the ipad gets in regards to usability, the better off it will be when used in the manner you describe (which I think is a great idea btw). Perhaps even a specific app for ‘legal organization’ would be helpful.

  • AccountingBeyond Says:

    […] for work practises (Peninsulawyer has some good summaries of latest experiences and tips, as does Jason Plant) and the overall consensus (hope?) so far seems to be that we have a fair way to go before it […]

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