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July 24, 2007

You Want to Be Competitive? Go Paper - 'Less'.

The future is upon us.  And solo practitioners who want to be lean, mean and competitive have the technological tools to rocket ahead.  These tools, when used properly, will help you to create the ultimate paper - 'Less' office.  Paperless does not mean 'no paper.'  It means LESS paper. 

Going paper - "Less" means configuring the right hardware and software for yourself and it remains subjective because there is a huge technological world out there with many products.  The basics remain the same, however.

This is why I invited Grant Griffiths to guest post on the elements of his paper - "Less" office.  Grant is a solo practitioner and home office lawyer.  He's got it down to a science. The programs he recommends work for him and he is partial to Macintosh. But it gives you an insight into the basic products needed.

The Paper - "Less" Office - Grant Griffiths, Home Office Lawyer

"I am quite honored Susan has asked me again for a guest post for this great blog. Susan and I recently had a discussion concerning my method of using a paper - "Less"/Virtual Office in my law practice. During that visit, Susan stated to me, "you realize you are describing to me your next guest post?" And she was right. Below is a description of how I use the technology, both hardware and software available to everyone.

In order for me to handle the case load I do and to be able to travel from one county courthouse to another, I had to utilize a paper-"Less"/Virtual Office model. Because I no longer care physical files with me to court or appointments with clients, I had to make sure the main piece of hardware I was using was the most reliable on the market. The only choice in my opinion is the Apple MacBook or MacBook Pro. The hardware is outstanding and, best of all, it works. The OSX operating system is stable and not subject to viruses or worms. The next piece of the hardware puzzle is the scanner. Price, reliability and function were the key features I looked for. And I found all of that in the Fujitsu ScanSnap. The ScanSnap “quickly converts paper documents into PDF files you can organize, share, and protect.“

With the MacBook and ScanSnap I scan every document that comes into my office each day. In order to organize the number of documents I get in my family law practice, I set each client up on my harddrive in a virtual file cabinet. Each client has a folder for each case or matter I am handling for them. And inside each folder are sub-folders designed to handle the different type of documents we deal with. From pleadings, discovery, notes, experts reports and billing. With this simple system, every document for every client in my practice is at my finger tips. Even if I am not in the office. It is actually quite amazing how fast I can locate a document with this system when I am in court or on the phone. With just a few clicks of the mouse or touchpad, I have the document right there in front of my on the computer display. (Depending upon the file management program used, clients can have 24/7 password protected access to their files to know the status of their case.)

Next, for those cases which are contested and going to trial, I use a wonderful program called Circus Ponies Notebook. And to take Notebook even one step further, I set up the Notebook just like those legal binders you can buy from Bindertek. With Notebook, you can even color code the tabs to match those in Bindertek. You simply link or copy all the documents and discovery into Notebook and you have a virtual trial notebook. With this great tool, you can find what you need in trial fast and easy. And what is best, are the looks and stares you will get from opposing counsel when you can locate their exhibits and documents faster than they can.

Finally, in order to maintain the paper-"Less" office to its next level, I don't own a traditional fax machine. What I use is my Mac Mini which I have set up as my file/fax server. On the Mini and the MacBook, I have a program called pagesender. With pagesender, all of my faxes come into my Mini and are emailed to my MacBook no matter where I might be. When a fax arrives that needs my signature, I sign it by pasting my signature in the correct location in the document. I have my signature saved to my desktop. I rarely if ever, print any of my faxes to hard copy. Once I have reviewed them, I do a number of things with them. I save them to the client’s virtual file folder for the case it is associated with. Next, I email a copy to my client. I try to educate my clients on the importance of using email in this way. If another attorney or party is involved in the case, I will email them a copy of the same document. Or send them a fax of the document. If by chance there is a document I need to fax and it is not in my virtual file cabinet, I just scan it with the ScanSnap and send it off with pagesender. All of this has been done and the document has never been printed.

One thing we all need to keep in mind however is, we will never have a paperless office. That is why I too use the word paper-"Less.". I do maintain originals I may need in trial as an exhibit.

By using the paper-"Less"/virtual office described above, I have been able to work out of a home office without the need for walls full of file cabinets, a loud and expensive copier and piles of file folders taking up good carpet space."

Grant Griffiths publishes and maintains the Home Office Lawyer Blog. In addition he is in the process of developing a new program called Blawg for Profit. Grant is working with Michael Sherman on this project. Grant also publishes the Kansas Family & Divorce Lawyer blog which has been a great marketing tool in his practice.


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Susan Cartier Liebel recently asked me to do another guest post for her wonderful blog, Build a Solo Practice, LLC. Well I could not refuse such a gracious request. So, go to Susans blog and read You Want to Be [Read More]


Charles Oliver Wolff, Esq.

I operate in a similar way, except I use a Gateway convertible PC (since I am a certified network security consultant as well as a lawyer, I know how to harden my machine). Running Windows Vista, I rely on a similar file structure, but I use OneNote for client files, which appears to be similar to Circus Ponies.

Using a convertible, all I need do during an interview or appearance is swing the screen around and lock it down, then I can write directly in any document with a stylus, which is less distracting.

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