AS TECHNOLOGY advances, law firms are turning to paperless technologies to increase collaboration, enhance traceability, decrease office space storage, and reduce their environmental footprint. The percentage of law firms investing in new technology is increasing, pushing courtrooms to follow suit. Various courts across Australia are moving towards paperless courtrooms.
Magistrates Courts throughout Western Australia plan to become paper-free by the end of 2015. The Supreme Court of Victoria will be following its lead and will also become paperless by 1 January 2016. The Federal Court of Australia also plans on trialling paperless courtrooms. One of the most obvious benefits of a paperless courtroom for lawyers is that they will no longer need to haul countless boxes of documents to and from court each day.
Once a matter has been heard in court and has been finalised, files can be stored in electronic format, reducing the need for storage space. If every paper document held in the storage facilities of Australia’s Federal Circuit Court were stacked in one pile, it would stand 24 kilometres high – almost three times as high as Mount Everest!
As courts digitise their processes and procedures, new rules will develop in relation to discovery, evidence, and in-court etiquette. Lawyers will need to keep up to date with the changes in rules to ensure a smooth and easy transition and to provide the best possible service to their clients.
To help prepare for the shift to a paperless courtroom, lawyers can start by implementing these practices in-house:
- Create a mobile workspace.
A mobile workspace has huge implications for the paperless office. If you have all of your documents, emails and notes instantly available on a device that is with you wherever you are, there’s no need to carry around countless folders and documents.
- Eliminate print copy files.
Reconsider printing every piece of correspondence for your matter file. If your firm uses an efficient electronic practice management system, take advantage of this and keep all your matter information and documents in one place. Those who do will save time when it comes to finding the correct document or information for your clients.
- Scan boxes of paperwork by mail.
People drowning in paperwork will immediately point to their stacks of pulp as the biggest reason they couldn’t possibly go paper-free. Scanning services can quickly convert thousands of documents into electronic pages, returning them to you in electronic format.
- Take advantage of the Cloud.
While it is still necessary for some documents to be kept in a hard copy format, as digitisation becomes more common it will be possible for law firms to increase the number of records and documents they hold electronically. This will reduce the cost of storage and printing, as well as enable documents to be found faster when needed.
Trevor Learoyd is Operations Manager at Law In Order. For more information visit lawinorder.com.au/document-production