Jun 4 2010

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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