Getting Adoption for Your Document Scanning Program

By John Gilbert, senior vice president, nQueue

If law firms can agree on one issue, it’s that they have a paper problem. And while they may have dreams of becoming paperless, the reality is that it’s nearly impossible to achieve it. Intelligent firms are instead taking an iterative approach we call “paper-less.” Such an approach relies upon the ability of legal professionals to quickly and easily scan any and all new documents. In order to build a truly successful strategy — one that will be actually embraced by all firm employees — it is crucial to devise a process in which all scanned documents are handled the same way, no matter where and how they are scanned.

Have a retention policy. Set procedures to scan and destroy the hard copy of any documents allowed by the retention policy. This caps the amount of paper at current levels, other than the few additional paper documents that must be kept.

Implement quality control. Attorneys will adopt the process faster if they see good quality control. This includes verifying that scanned documents are in the correct location with the correct names and all pages have been scanned correctly. Best practices also dictate a waiting period of 30 to 60 days before shredding, and a full audit trail.

Scan even upon retrieval. Make sure that no documents (except those for which hard copy retention is required) ever get sent to off-site storage; this includes boxes that are retrieved from storage in the course of business. Even these documents should be scanned and stored in the document management system and shredded. Remember the goal of this document scanning program is not to remove all paper from the firm overnight; however, consider the impact of a reduction of even 5 percent per year.

Scan every day. The only way this program can work is if document scanning becomes a part of the firm’s daily workflow, which means changing the behavior of legal and administrative professionals. The key to achieving this is simplicity. Scanning must be simple from any device in the firm. Attorneys and legal assistants need to easily be able to scan documents from any device.

Prepare for bulk and walk-up scanning. One issue that firms run into is that they don’t have processes for both bulk and walk-up scanning, which means they are either good at scanning small amounts of paper or large amounts, but rarely both. Bulk scanning is typically done in the back office and involves large troves (or at least piles) of paper that are already ready for scanning. For example, boxes of paper that have been retrieved from an off-site location are ripe for bulk scanning. Walk-up scanning usually involves active work product, takes place in the front office by legal professionals and assistants, and is only a few pages. In order to make it easy to scan and organize all the firms’ incoming paper, a firm needs to be able to handle both bulk and walk-up scanning.

Take a uniform approach. Different document scanning devices have different interfaces, confusing professionals throughout the firm. The best way to get good adoption on any new process or technology is to make following the new process the easiest thing to do. All scanned documents should be sent automatically and directly to a specific destination, ideally the firm’s document management system (although due to past practices, the ability to scan directly to a network folder or via email or fax should be retained). Regardless, workflows must be standardized so all users, whether front office or back office, have the same experience and all documents are handled in the same way.

Interested in more tips on creating a paperless or paper-less law firm? Check out, “Paperless Strategies for Law Firm Leaders,” ALA’s Tips and Trends article in the October issue of Legal Management (email and member ID required).

John Gilbert is Senior Vice President at nQueue, a provider of cost recovery and document scanning and routing solutions worldwide. He can be reached at jgilbert@nQueue.com.

Reprinted with permission from ALA Currents newsletter, Octber 23, 2014 issue,
published by the Association of Legal Administrators, www.alanet.org.