find the latest legal job
Corporate Counsel and Company Secretary
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: Newcastle, Maitland & Hunter NSW
· Highly-respected, innovative and entrepreneurial Not-for-Profit · Competency based Board
View details
Chief Counsel and Company Secretary
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: Newcastle, Maitland & Hunter NSW
· Dynamic, high growth organisation · ASX listed market leader
View details
In-house Projects Lawyer | Renewables / Solar | 2-5 Years PQE
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: All Australia
· Help design the future · NASDAQ Listed
View details
Insurance Lawyer (3-5 PAE)
Category: Insurance and Superannuation Law | Location: Brisbane CBD & Inner Suburbs Brisbane QLD
· Dynamic organisation ·
View details
Legal Counsel
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: North Sydney NSW 2060
· 18 month fixed term contract · 3-5 years PQE with TMT exposure
View details
Hard-copy habits die hard

Hard-copy habits die hard

Australian law firms continue to rely on paper documents for the bulk of their work, despite increased mobile work practices within the profession, according to new research.

Fuji Xerox Australia’s Colmar Brunton Streamlining the Law Firm research project, the results of which were released this week, surveyed more than 100 Australian law firms with 300 or less employees. It revealed that 80 per cent of firms still print some or all documents that they receive electronically, while 79 per cent mainly use hard copies when exchanging documents.

The main reasons given for printing emails, attachments, invoices and any other kind of electronically-received documents were: force of habit (43 %), legal requirements (42 %) and easier access (31 %).

Elizabeth Leslie, marketing programs manager (solutions) at Fuji Xerox Australia, said the research showed lawyers were scanning hard-copy documents they received into the computer while still storing the hard-copy version.

“There’s this duplication happening … there is this perception that ‘I still need to keep a hard copy’ because the law previously [stipulated] you must keep original hard copies of certain documents for seven years and then dispose of them,” explained Leslie.

“In a lot of cases now it’s not a requirement by law to save original documents. There’s a set of documents that you have to keep the original of, wills and deeds and that sort of thing, but a lot of the time the digital record stands up in the same way.”

While large law firms can often afford to have such documents managed by a record management company, Leslie said it’s “a little bit more complicated for small and medium-sized firms”.

 “I think there’s an opportunity for those firms to get their heads around ‘how do we manage not only the storage and archive of those documents but the subsequent destruction of those when the time comes?’,” she said, adding that training and support for legal professionals is also vital to ensure the efficiency benefits of any electronic document management system are maximised.

Mobile office

The research also indicated that 38 per cent of legal professionals now work remotely at least once a week.

Twenty in-depth qualitative interviews identified mobile devices as allowing lawyers to respond to communications and access legislation more readily than before.

“We were surprised the number was as low as it was, we expected there to be a higher percentage of lawyers working remotely, but the trend varies depending on the size of the organisation and the role so, for obvious reasons, legal practitioners were most likely to be working remotely,” said Leslie.

There remain barriers, however, for lawyers to work effectively away from the office.

Fourteen per cent of respondents said it was “impossible or very difficult” to access files on their own network when working remotely.

“That can be to do with the device they’re using,” explained Leslie. “Different firms have different policies around access to different parts of the system for security purposes [but] with this increasing trend to bring your own device and working from home it’s really important that they have access to the tools and systems they need to work effectively,” she said.

As a result of changing business models and growing competition, law firms are increasingly adopting management frameworks that aim to optimise core operations within the business.

According to the research, 45 percent of firms now employ a non-practising managing director.

“It seems the law firm is more and more being treated as a business as opposed to being led by partners and managing partners; people who’ve come up through the ranks of the legal fraternity,” said Leslie.

“As a result of this renewed focus on business fundamentals, the legal industry looks set to grow increasingly efficient in the coming years.”

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

Hard-copy habits die hard
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
LCA president Fiona McLeod SC
Aug 17 2017
Where social fault lines meet the justice gap in Aus
After just returning from a tour of the Northern Territory, LCA president Fiona McLeod SC speaks wit...
Marriage equality flag
Aug 17 2017
ALHR backs High Court challenge to marriage equality postal vote
Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) has voiced its support for a constitutional challenge to ...
Give advice
Aug 17 2017
A-G issues advice on judiciary’s public presence
Commonwealth Attorney-General George Brandis QC has offered his advice on the public presence of jud...
APPOINTMENTS
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
opinion
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
Help
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...