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Wasting paper – and time – in the legal world

We've got some new data come in from EMC Documentum (who are obviously very happy that Linklaters continue to use their systems) about the amount of time & effort law firms waste looking for information (when they presumably do not have a Documentum system at their disposal). Joking aside, these figures (which echo earlier research on the subject) do reinforce the view that most firms would run more efficiently – and their lawyers get home earlier on an evening – if they just had better filing systems. (And that's without even getting into the whole 'green' debate.)

According to the research…

• The legal industry lives up to its stereotype of printing and photocopying more sheets of paper per day than office workers in other industries

• Those in the legal sector (37%) are more likely than those in all other industries questioned (21%) to spend over half an hour a day searching for paper copies of emails or other documents

• The legal industry (25%) is also more likely than those in any other industry interviewed (11%) to print in excess of 100 pages in an average a day at the office. This equates to an average of 107 pages printed in the legal industry and an average of 54 pages in all other industries monitored. Those in the legal industry are also more likely than others to print over fifty pages (51% vs. 24%)

• 63% of fee earners spend more than 30 minutes looking for emails or other electronic documents

• 1 in 15 spend an hour or more looking for paper documents

• 78% print at least 26 pages a day

• 53% photocopy at least 26 pages a day

3 replies on “Wasting paper – and time – in the legal world”

Here we go again with another blast from the past. Dare I say it someone from the research organsiation might mention something about a paperless office again and I will be immediated teleported back to 1990. Is there anyone out there that still doesn't know the difference between Jurassic Park [the film] and a law firm. One is about a time and place that has long ago inhabited by creatures that have yet to evolve…. the other is a film directed by Stephen Spielberg.

Hey, I made that Jurassic Park joke in my 1998 book Legal Practice in the Digital Age. Seriously, point taken – but it doesn't alter the fact that a lot of law firms could be far more profitable if they weren't so inefficient – and they don't know they are inefficient cos they have legions of trainees doing the donkey work and spending the best years of their lives in basements sorting thru archives.

In my experience, having worked for a major cost recovery supplier and having been involved in document management and records management/archives for numerous years, I have to agree with the findings of this piece of research. Not only do law firms produce unbelievable volumes of paper (both printing and photocopying), they also have many challenges in managing it.
We have seen many of the larger firms embrace records/archive management systems (such as LegalKEY RM, Interwoven RM, etc.) to help them find “records” further down the line. However this often only relates to paper archives of closed matters. Many firms are still to realise the opportunity and returns of managing paper systematically (“live filing”) within such systems.
If you combine this with the poor implementation of retention management and destruction policies in most law firms, you will start to understand how many firms are carrying excess operational costs and spending far too long searching for documents……….Maybe a recession might help to ease this particular problem!!!

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