I have always been a big fan of efficiency. Sometimes technology can get in the way of that, no doubt about it. One area where I believe technology is king though is helping businesses run remotely.
Why Do You Need A Paperless Office?
You don't need a paperless office, but to me, it is essential to operating the business no matter where I am at. For example, when I am giving a speech in another city, I can be managing our internal checklists throughout the day. I can give direct feedback to my team on live conversations with clients. I can draft a letter to be sent without ever being at the firm.
Disclaimer: I am not writing this to say don't be at the office or don't use paper. I believe personal connections and relationship building are essential, which is why I believe in the ability to run my office remotely when necessary. However, I am a firm believer that being in person is instrumental to teach and grow my practice.
Now that I got that out of the way, let me get back to why I like having a remote office: relationship building. No matter what business you are in, you need to be able to spend quality time with people. This means getting out of the office and away from the computer. The way I know too many people spend too much time behind a computer screen is how fast they respond to listserves.
How Can You Run A Paperless Office?
Before I give you the actual tools, I need to make sure that you understand a paperless office starts with the team. You must have a team that buys in and is capable of this. Some tasks are better for people with paper, but you must have a team of folks that are all in on being paperless.
Second, you must stay consistent with this approach. If someone wants a bunch of documents, unless absolutely necessary to print and mail, find a way to give it to them digitally. Disclaimer: this does not substitute direct mail marketing campaigns. Those still work and are necessary.
Finally, you need to spend time learning how you learn and create best. It is different for everyone, but here are a few different ideas that have worked for me.
What Do You Use?
As for technology, I run a Mac office. To me, the equipment is easier to use and it synchs with all your Apple devices. For example, I have a MacBook Pro, iPad, and iPhone. This helps me stay updated no matter what device I am on. My team also uses Mac.
Our phones are VOIP phones that we can use apps on our iPhone. A VOIP phone runs off the internet and is essentially a digital service. This allows my team and I to run our office remotely if needed. Weather and traffic or holidays and vacations may require us to be away from the physical office more than we would like. However, we can take the office with us. This includes answering the phone.
Cloud based programs... For those of you that don't know what this means, don't worry. It is similar to a server. Basically, we all need storage, whether for physical items or digital items. Cloud based storage is like a sever company that you can buy storage space from. We have used Dropbox in the past for shared documents. Now, we are using Google Drive. I know there are tons of options out there. You just need to find what works for your size of office and needs. The point is you will need some sort of cloud based storage program.
If You Read Nothing Else, Read This For New Info!
Internal communication and organization programs are the key to running a paperless office. At my office we are always testing and searching for new programs. Currently, we use the following:
Slack - Slack is a digital message program where we have different channels for cases and different aspects of the firm. I am not a huge fan of using email internally. We get too many as is. I only want email for what is absolutely necessary and Slack for the rest. Plus it is live so if one of my team is on the phone with someone needing real-time help, they can send a message.
iCalendar - this is essential because everyone can be on the same page. I use it for time-blocks as well as appointments. My team always knows where I am and what I'm doing because we calendar.
Evernote - we are not using this as a team product, but this is absolutely the most important thing I use today. It allows me to keep my notes digitally. So rather than storing a bunch of word documents in folders I can't find, I have different notebooks. For example, I have a notebook for cases. Then within that notebook, I have notes on each case. That is where I store all my ideas. Or I have a notebook for my to-do lists. I break them down to the day, week, month, and extras to delegate. This allows me to never stop creating or thinking, but not forget what I wanted. This is essential.
External hard-drive - now, you may be thinking but I thought the goal was to be able to travel light. Don't worry, you still are. However, you always want to back-up your files on your external hard-drive. So, each member of my team has one. I have two. One for backup only and one for my travel kit. The other reason is to use them for big presentation type files. These take up so much space that unless you are sending a link to someone, you will want to use an external harddrive to back them up.
Baby Steps - Start Simple, Then Grow
We didn't just start out as a paperless lawfirm. Although that was always the plan, we grew into it over time. We have been testing and adding constantly. That will never stop either. You need to pick a few areas you see where you can cut down on paper and find a system that works for you.
What Is On Our Work Table Now?
Currently, we are working on our checklist system. I was introduced to Asana by my good friend Kenny Berger. He runs an amazing law firm out of South Carolina. Asana is a checklist template that can be used to manage projects. You start with a custom base and then add specifics as necessary. They come with a deadline on each of them.
We are working on building Asana into our daily routines because I am a huge fan of checklists and systems. It prevents me having to repeat myself all the time. It prevents me from asking if something was done yet. It allows my team to set deadlines for their tasks within a project.
We are a small business and I am a small business owner. I would be glad and happy to answer any questions any of you have. You can email me directly at [email protected] or give us a call at the office. My team will set us up a time to talk. I look forward to it. Best of luck with your paperless office!