THE NEOPHYTE LAWYER
DAY 100: WHERE’S MY PAPERLESS OFFICE?
Earlier this week, we took new photos as part of our effort to upgrade the firm’s web site. As part of the preparations for this grand event, everyone in the office was asked to clean up their offices. As I was going through the various stacks of paper on my desk, credenza, bookshelf, and floor, I was struck by just how many unnecessary duplicate copies of documents we produce around here. Is there a real reason we need to kill so many trees?
For example, in my practice section, every time we get a pleading or a letter in the mail, the original goes into the file and we make work copies for the following people: (1) my supervising attorney; (2) the junior attorney (me); (3) the paralegal; and (4) the secretary. When we send email updates to each other, we generally have to print a hard copy for my supervising attorney (that’s a story worthy of another blog post at another time) and for the correspondence file in the case binder. If we reply to the email, we print another copy, and so on.
Most of my work copies end up sitting on my desk long after their usefulness has passed. As new projects and deadlines emerge, the pile of now-unnecessary work copies grows and multiplies like rabbits. Finally, when I can no longer handle it, I spend an hour or two “clearing the decks for action,” as it were, sorting through everything and deciding which things need to be kept and filed, which unnecessary things contain confidential client information and must be shredded, and which unnecessary things can go into the regular recycling.
There has to be a better way, right? Right? Please tell me there’s a better way! If you are facing this same problem, here are some suggestions. They may be easier said than done, but you have to start somewhere.
Suggestions for Dealing with Paper Overload
- Decide what hard copies you really need. Don’t Make Any Other Copies! This seems like a simple idea. Sometimes you need the original hard copy. Pleadings, incoming and outgoing correspondence, key documents, exhibits, etc., should be kept in hard copy form. But does everybody in the office need their own work copy of everything that comes in the mail? Before hitting the print button on the copier ask yourself this question: Who really needs a hard copy of this? If they don’t need a copy, don’t make it.
- Scan and store documents electronically. If your office doesn’t have a scanner, get one. Get into the habit of scanning everything that comes in. Electronic copies are a lot easier to store than hard copies, and are easier to share with the rest of your team.
- If you have to make a hard copy, use double-sided printing. For those work copies that have to be made, use the double-sided printing feature on your copy machine. That will at least reduce the number of sheets of paper piling up on your desk.
- When you are finished with the work copy, get it off your desk as soon as possible. Don’t allow all of those work copies to pile up on your desk. Not only is it aesthetically unpleasing, it makes it more difficult to find the things you really need to find. Whether you put them in the file, shred them, recycle them, throw them away, make confetti out of them and fill up your courier’s cubicle with it on his or her birthday, get rid of them when you don’t need them any more. (NB: Filling up your courier’s cubicle with shredded paper is probably not advisable, in the interests of inter-office harmony. Even if your couriers are cool, like the ones in our office. Pretend I didn’t even mention it.)
I’m always interested in learning new ideas and methods. I’m sure that I am not the only one dealing with this problem. How do you deal with paper overload?
(P.S. In case anyone was wondering, apparently the photo shoot turned out quite nice. Once we get everything put together, I’ll post a link.)