Effectively managing and securing content is one of the most crucial technology initiatives a law firm can implement. Managing thousands of content forms and documents—including pleadings, cases, evidence, forms, emails, and more—in a secure, efficient manner is essential to a well-run firm.
In recent years the ways firms manage content has evolved significantly, far beyond simply storing content on a local file server or basic cloud platform to getting the right information to the right lawyers and staff at precisely the right time, securely. Print and capture capabilities are a vital piece of this puzzle, serving as the off-and on-ramps to content within the organization and enhancing the speed and security of traditionally paper-based processes. What are some of the key considerations for firms as they evaluate print and capture capabilities?
Does the system deliver exceptional value?
Most law firms are based on a billable-hours model, where maximizing billable time is paramount to the firm’s bottom line. Print and capture solutions should, therefore, be evaluated on their ability to deliver value—promoting greater efficiency, productivity and security in all document processes, thus preserving hours for billable work and profitable client engagements.
Some billable hours-based businesses recommend passing off non-billable work to administrative workers whenever possible. But with stringent lawyer/client confidentiality mandates in the legal industry, that’s not always possible. What if a lawyer needs to sign and store a sensitive, confidential document? They would have no choice but to be involved. Now imagine that lawyer has to go through the clunky process of printing, manually signing, scanning and routing the document to the appropriate online file destination?
This seems like a wasteful way to be spending otherwise billable hours, while also introducing the opportunity for data security lapse if the print job is accidentally forgotten or intercepted by an unauthorized employee. Industry research shows that administrative tasks contribute to a staggeringly large portion of the typical lawyer’s non-billable day. Tools that promote greater administrative efficiencies can not only help maximize a firm’s overall productivity, they also reduce employee burnout.
Per the example above, a much more efficient and secure approach would be to equip the lawyer with e-signature capabilities allowing him or her to swiftly sign and save the document in a gated online location. Additional security safeguards like encryption or redaction of sensitive data can be automatically applied so that even if the document gets electronically routed to an unauthorized recipient or is orphaned at the printer, its contents are still safeguarded. Automated security protocols such as these can be the key to lawyers and other staff working quickly, without compromising data protection. However, these capabilities are often underutilized. According to the ABA 2017 Legal Technology Survey Report, most firms, especially small ones, don’t bother to secure files with encryption.
Is it modern?
Just as lawyers’ time must be maximized while they’re at the office, so too must it be when they’re on the road. For billable hours-focused law firms, tools that promote remote productivity and seamless collaboration with in-office colleagues are key. When workers can fully participate in business processes, even while traveling or working remotely, they feel less stressed and are more likely to maintain high productivity.
This leads to the second criteria for print and capture—mobile accessibility and compatibility, simply because more work is being conducted via mobile devices. A recent Oxford Economics survey of senior IT and business leaders showed that 80% of the respondents believe their employees can’t do their jobs effectively without a smartphone. In fact, 75% said that mobile devices are essential to their company’s business workflows.
Mobile capture enables lawyers and other off-site workers to simply snap photos of documents via their smartphones and submit them directly for routing to the appropriate colleague or electronic file back at the office. Tools like this should be slick, reliable and convenient, feeling much like one’s favorite mobile phone apps.
Is it simple?
In the past, workers may have been more willing to accept non-intuitive, cumbersome technologies as something they simply needed to use to do their jobs. Thanks to industry leaders like Google, Microsoft, and Apple, the tides have changed, and end-user expectations for any and all of the applications they use—whether for work, entertainment, or other personal use—are higher than ever. Research shows that the end-user experience has a more significant impact on talent acquisition and retention than originally thought.
Any new technology, no matter how beneficial, will not be quickly and universally adopted if extensive worker education or training is required. Consider PDF creation and editing tools—a lawyer shouldn’t have to be a PDF whiz to use the new features and capabilities being introduced; rather, these tools should be intuitive and easy.
Document processes in the legal field are often complex, requiring numerous reviews/approvals and signatures. Simplification of these processes is important, but the enabling tools must themselves be simple for users. Law firms should avoid the temptation to load up on features, functions, and integrations they don’t need. By focusing on the capabilities that enhance productivity, law firms can maintain simplicity while promoting greater adoption which is more important than having extra bells and whistles.
Content is still king and at the center of every successful law firm. The legal industry has come a long way in improving the flow, management, and security of content, but many firms now look toward the next generation approach—capabilities that delight end users and revolutionize how work is done, for the betterment of the staff and firm.
Print and capture can play a huge role here. Enterprises should carefully evaluate capabilities based on their ability to deliver clear value-add, while also featuring modern design and functionality and mobile compatibility, as well as ease of use. These are the attributes that tend to cultivate happier lawyers and staff and more successful, profitable firms.