Paperless Law Office Protocols

paperless law office protocols

paperless law office protocols
After deciding to go paperless, or to get everyone at your firm on board, you’ll need to create a set of procedures or protocols. Andrew Kucera, who took his firm paperless, provided a set of protocols for our popular Paperless Law Office E-Book. He has since updated them. Here’s the updated Paperless Law Office Protocols. See, also the updated File Structure and File Naming Conventions.

Introduction

Every document (including writings, images, photographs, audio files, and video files) in any format (including physical paper and electronic formats) falls into one of two (2) categories:

  1. Documents received by us
    • This includes every document that we receive from an outside source, regardless of the format and the method of reception
  2. Documents produced by us
    • This includes every document that we draft, generate, or otherwise create, regardless of the format and whether or not it is transmitted to an outside source

These documents are treated differently.

Documents Received By Us

There are two (2) types of documents received by us:

  1. Documents received by us in paper form
    • This includes:
      • Court runner (ours or another attorney’s)
      • Personal delivery
      • U.S. Mail
      • Private courier
      • Courier service (FedEx, UPS, Golden State Overnight, etc.)
  1. Documents received by us in electronic form
    • This includes:
      • Email messages
      • Email attachments
      • Text messages
      • Text attachments
      • Faxes (via email from MetroFax)
      • Flash drives and CDs

Documents Received By Us In Paper Form

For documents received by us in paper form, follow this procedure:

  1. If there is an envelope, stamp the envelope “RECEIVED” and put it in the Day Box (see below)
  2. If there is a runner sheet with no runner notes on it, stamp the runner sheet “RECEIVED” and put it in the Day Box
  3. All other paper documents are stamped “RECEIVED” on the back, with today’s date
    1. See exceptions for Special Documents
  4. The paper document is scanned using the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500
  5. The resulting electronic document is compared to the paper document to ensure that the paper document scanned correctly
    • If the paper document did not scan correctly:
      • Use Adobe Acrobat to remove blank pages
      • Use Adobe Acrobat to rotate pages
      • Re-scan if necessary
  1. The electronic document is named according to the File Naming Protocol
  2. If the document requires attorney review (i.e.: new mail), the electronic document is moved to the New Mail folder in Dropbox
  3. If the document does not require attorney review, the electronic document is moved to the appropriate folder in Dropbox according to the File Structure Protocol
  4. The paper document is stamped “SCANNED”
    • See exceptions for special documents
  5. The paper document is placed in the “Day Box” (see below)
    • See exceptions for special documents

Documents Received By Us In Electronic Form

For documents received by us in electronic form, follow this procedure:

  1. EMAIL MESSAGES:
    • Email messages are stored on our email server (Google). To make email storage function properly, you must set up you email account as an IMAP account and not a POP account. IMAP accounts will mirror image the email messages and store the original message on the server. POP accounts will actually remove the message from the server and store it on your computer locally.
    • If an email message appears particularly important, save it as a PDF.
      • Name the document according to the File Naming Protocol, and save it in Dropbox according to the File Structure Protocol (in the client/matter/CORRESPONDENCE folder).
  2.  EMAIL ATTACHMENTS
    • If YOU receive an attachment to an email, such as a document, image, photograph, audio file, or video file, YOU are responsible for naming, locating and saving the document.
      • The electronic document is named according to the File Naming Protocol, and saved in Dropbox according to the File Structure Protocol
    • The person receiving the document must also remember to bill for reviewing the document!
    • If multiple people within the firm receive the email, such as an attorney and an admin, the attorney will be responsible for reviewing and billing, and the admin will be responsible for naming, locating, and saving.
    • If only an admin receives an email attachment, name and save the document in the New Mail folder
  3.  TEXT MESSAGES:
    • Text messages are stored on Apple’s iCloud server. When closing a client file, export all related text strings for that file as PDFs.
      • Name the document according to the File Naming Protocol, and save it in Dropbox according to the File Structure Protocol (in the client/matter/CORRESPONDENCE folder).
  4.  TEXT MESSAGE ATTACHMENTS:
    • See Email Attachments above. Forward the text to your email and save the document as the appropriate file type.
  5.  FAXES VIA EMAIL (METROFAX):
    • We have a MetroFax account (559-314-6214)
    • All incoming faxes are delivered by email to ASK, CMP, and SB, in PDF format
    • The front office person (now SB) is responsible for naming and saving the document
    • Faxes that require attorney review should be placed in the New Mail folder in Dropbox
    • Faxes that do not require attorney review should be processed by staff and saved directly to the appropriate folder in Dropbox
  6. FLASH DRIVES AND CDS
    • Discovery and other documents may arrive by personal delivery, overnight, or US Mail in the form of Flash Drives and CDs
    • The front office staff should copy the files from the Flash Drive/CD and paste them into the New Mail folder in Dropbox, with the client and matter in the folder name and designated as “Original” files
      • The file names and formats should not be changed
      • If the file names and formats need to be changed, copies of the files should be made first, and placed in a different folder
    • The Flash Drive/CD should be placed in a paper file in the filing cabinet, according to the client and matter

Documents Produced By Us

There are two (2) types of documents produced by us:

  1. Documents produced by us that do not physically leave our office
    • This includes:
      • Paper Documents:
        1. Faxes (sent via analog fax)
        2. Attorney notes (on legal pads or post-its)
        3. Attorney work copies (marked up)
        4. Interoffice memos
      • Electronic Documents:
        1. Email messages
        2. Email attachments
        3. Text messages
        4. Text attachments
        5. Faxes (sent via MetroFax)
        6. Interoffice memos
  1. Documents drafted by us that physically leave our office
    • This includes:
      • Paper Documents:
        1. Court filings
        2. Documents to be served
        3. Correspondence (via U.S. Mail, private courier, or courier service)
      • Electronic Documents:
        1. Flash drives and CDs

Paper Documents Produced By Us That Do Not Leave Our Office

  1. The paper document (fax, atty notes, work copies, interoffice memos) is scanned using the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500
    • See exceptions for special documents
  2. The resulting electronic document is compared to the paper document to ensure that the paper document scanned correctly
    • If the paper document did not scan correctly:
      • Use Adobe Acrobat to remove blank pages
      • Use Adobe Acrobat to rotate pages
      • Re-scan if necessary
  1. The electronic document is named according to the File Naming Protocol and saved in the appropriate file format in the appropriate folder in Dropbox, according to the File Structure Protocol
  2. The paper document is stamped “SCANNED” on the back of the last page
  3. The paper document is placed in the Day Box

Electronic Documents Produced By Us That Do Not Leave Our Office

  1. The electronic document is named according to the File Naming Protocol and saved in the appropriate file format in the appropriate folder in Dropbox, according to the File Structure Protocol

Paper Documents Produced By Us That Leave Our Office

  1. The paper document (fax, atty notes, work copies, interoffice memos) is scanned using the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500
    • See exceptions for special documents
  2. The resulting electronic document is compared to the paper document to ensure that the paper document scanned correctly
    • If the paper document did not scan correctly:
      • Use Adobe Acrobat to remove blank pages
      • Use Adobe Acrobat to rotate pages
      • Re-scan if necessary
  1. The electronic document is named according to the File Naming Protocol and saved in the appropriate file format in the appropriate folder in Dropbox, according to the File Structure Protocol
  2. The paper document is mailed or sent for filing or service, according to instructions
  3. There is no paper document to place in the “Day Box” because it physically left our office

Electronic Documents Produced By Us That Leave Our Office

  1. The electronic document is named according to the File Naming Protocol and saved in the appropriate file format in the appropriate folder in Dropbox, according to the File Structure Protocol
  2. The electronic document is copied onto a Flash Drive or CD and transmitted as directed

The “Day Box”

  1. The Day Box is a standard cardboard bankers’ box that resides in the reception area below the scanner
  2. All paper documents generated or received by the office, after being scanned and stamped “SCANNED,” are placed in the Day Box
    • See exceptions below for special documents
  3. Documents are placed face-down in the order the are scanned, grouped with staples, paper clips, or binder clips
  4. Documents are not separated by client or matter
  5. When the Day Box is full, the Day Box is capped and:
    • The “full date” is written on the top
    • The “shred date” (6 months later) is written on the top
  6. The full Day Box is placed in the filing cabinet for archiving
  7. A new empty Day Box is started
  8. Six (6) months from the date written on each archived Day Box, the contents of that Day Box are shredded
  9. An archived Day Box can be accessed for the most recent 6-month period if any document is accidentally deleted, becomes corrupted, or needs to be re-scanned

SPECIAL DOCUMENTS

  1. Some “special” paper documents are treated differently, in order to preserve the integrity of the original paper document
  2. Special documents are still scanned, compared, named, and located according to the procedure above, but:
    • They are not stamped “RECEIVED”
    • They are not stamped “SCANNED”
    • They are not placed in the Day Box
  3. Special documents are not 2-hole punched or stapled
  4. They are placed loose-leaf in one of two paper file folders:
    • “Original Client Documents” for original client documents
    • “Special Documents” for all other special documents
  5. The paper files are created only if there are special documents to put in it
  6. Special documents are:
    • Original client documents that will be returned to the client when the matter is closed
    • Original notices of pending action (lis pendens)
    • Original verifications (of pleadings, discovery, etc.)
    • Original documents that are certified by a court or other institution
    • Original court orders with original signatures or stamps
    • Original signed settlement agreements
    • Original judgments
    • Original abstracts of judgment
    • Original documents that we file with the Bankruptcy Court
    • Original promissory notes or loan agreements
    • Original documents that evidence a transfer of interest in real property (grant deeds, quitclaim deeds, trustees’ deeds, sheriffs’ deeds, deeds of trust, mortgages, etc.)
    • Original documents that have been recorded in any county recorder’s office
    • Original transcripts of depositions, court hearings, etc.

WORK COPIES

  1. Attorneys and staff my wish to keep paper copies of documents (work copies) to avoid having to print them out again, if they are needed in the future
    • This is also useful in the event the work copy will be highlighted, marked up with attorney notes, etc.
  2. If you wish to keep a work copy, stamp “COPY” on the document and place it in the “to-be-filed” bin, or in the work copy file folder
    • Do not do this with the scanned originals that go in the day box – making those documents work copies compromises the integrity of the day box
  3. Approximately once per week, staff will file the work copies in buckets, in the filing cabinets, organized by matter
  4. The work copies do not need to be in any specific order within the work copy bucket

Miscellaneous

  1. Scanning a 2-sided Document:
    • Stamp “scanned” on a post-it and stick it to the back of the document
Tags: