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Dan McCarter

Dan McCarter

In-House Counsel and Director of Legal Solutions at Docufree | Specializing in Digitally Transforming Legal Processes

Digital Transformation in the Legal Industry Part I: Legal Document Scanning and Digitization

In our first blog, “Documents to Data Part I: The information You Need to Run Your Law Firm Efficiently,” we addressed specific ways to digitally transform a legal office. We covered all of the internal operations and how they can run more efficiently when digitized. At the end of the day, law firms want to invest in solutions that lower operating costs and increase revenue. However, how do they proactively digitize the influx of data coming into a law firm on a daily basis?

Law firms are critically dependent on inbound documents from opposing counsel, courts, and clients. These are often time-sensitive documents that require a calendared response and contain confidential information. The problem is, they are coming in from all over, leading to a world of paper, couriers, scan-to-email workflows, and distributed data that is nearly impossible to govern. This is why I’d like to make the case for digital mail. Digital mailrooms automatically track and report the digital mail received and sent in a customer’s system. This means that, in addition to the cost savings realized from reducing manual labor, firms can recover the costs of digital mail and document review by passing these charges to their clients.

Think of a future where all inbound communications come into one platform where it is processed according to your rules, instantly delivered to the right people, workflows and systems, are trackable at every step, and responded to on-time. Ultimately, the “big picture” is improving the way a firm intakes documents. These documents come from myriad sources—USPS, email, fax, court-filing systems, and e-forms. A digital mailroom in essence creates a funnel for these multiple sources and sends them all through an automation cloud for direct storage in a case management system and forwarding to stakeholders. In fact, implementing an inbound digital document management system is one of the best things that law firms can do for establishing both efficiency and accuracy.

Here’s how such a system works: Paper documents are received and scanned by the digital mail provider, then automation indexes them to the proper matter, files them into the case or document management system, and also forwards them to responsible staff for review. The same process also applies to digital documents received by the system.

On the outbound side, a digital mailroom takes the manual labor out of mailing. Staff simply select the document they need to mail, the method of mailing, and the recipient, and then the digital mail provider prints, stuffs, and stamps the envelope before placing it in the mail. The staff member is sending paper mail without ever leaving their computer. 

It would be remiss not to mention the remote-access benefits of the digital mailroom. Even with lawyers returning to the office, most now practice in a hybrid environment where they regularly work from home. With a digital mailroom, you can access and send mail from anywhere on earth.

When selecting a digital mail solution, there are four key things to keep in mind. I’ll use Docufree’s Digital Mailroom for Legal as an example:

  1. Security is key: Security is key when dealing with sensitive documents and today’s remote workforce is fraught with additional security risks. Therefore, it’s important to make security a top priority when selecting a digital-mailroom partner. Law firms face ever-present security threats, as they are considered attractive targets for cyberattacks given the sensitive nature of client data they hold. The American Bar Association’s Legal Technology Resource Center showed that 29 percent of law firms experienced a security breach as they shifted to virtual work. Look for a solution provider that checks all the boxes when it comes to security, security protocols and certifications. For instance, Docufree offers the highest level of security in the digital mail marketplace and is regularly audited by outside organizations to certify it meets the highest levels of compliance for data privacy and security. This includes annual reviews to maintain SOC II Type 2, PCI, and HIPAA certifications. Just as important, the Docufree staff that handle firms’ mail undergo extensive screening and background checks. They work in secured rooms that require three-factor identification for entry, with no cellphones, backpacks, purses, or other items allowed in their workspaces. The computers they use only have access to the Docufree system with no Internet access or other software installed. Honestly, Docufree’s document processing has a lower risk of data loss or theft than the in-house processes used by most law firms.
  2. Look for a complete inbound mail processing system: Such a system should be custom crafted to cover the ENTIRE document intake process from start to finish. Many offerings just provide software to interface with a client’s scanner so you can scan your own mail. Look for a solution like Docufree that manages the process from A-Z so you can focus on what you do best—being a lawyer. A full solution looks something like this:
    • Receives, opens, sorts, and scans the mail so law firm staff do not have the physical burden. Other inbound digital mail providers only provide you with software and no process, meaning that you are still receiving, opening, and managing your own inbound documents.
    • Uses automation specifically engineered for the individual customer to route the documents to proper departments and individuals. Here again, other solutions require someone at the firm to put a “stamp” on each set of documents, input the destination for those documents, and then scan them so the software can read the stamp and forward the documents to the right destination.
    • Uploads the documents to case management or document management systems based on the customer’s rules for what information needs to be indexed and how/where the documents should be stored.
    • Finally, based on the client’s rules, the solution provider destroys the paper it has received so the customer doesn’t waste office space with storage boxes full of paper.

      Solutions like Docufree’s Digital Mailroom for Legal provide a complete inbound mail solution—from opening the physical mail to filing/routing the digital version then finally shredding the paper copies.

  3. Strong customer support that aligns with your needs: Find a digital mailroom provider with strong customer support. There are two kinds of offerings out there. One is where customers buy the software off the shelf and then are tasked with setting it up and learning how to use it. The other is an option like Docufree that customizes the platform for every customer and provides dedicated support staff to design, implement, train, and troubleshoot the solution for the lifetime of the service. When something is wrong with a customer’s system, they don’t just get a 1-800 number to call – they have a team of specific Docufree team members who are already well-versed with their unique customer account /software and are ready to step in and fix any issues. And, keep in mind that if you take the “do it yourself” route—you are also tasked with “do it yourself” troubleshooting.
  4. Ensure oversight and reporting:

    Platforms like Docufree provide detailed reports for customers that show historical inbound and outbound mail volumes and costs. Additionally, they can provide reports to show how long it takes a customer’s employees to process their digital mail. This allows the customer to visually see how efficiently documents are flowing through their personnel groups and determine where staff may be falling behind or where the firm is over-staffed, among other things. This can be a huge asset when looking at the benefits of this type of solution.

Bottom line, it is time to digitally transform your practice with a digital mailroom. Stop pushing paper at the office and digitally receive, act on, send, and track inbound and outbound mail, at home or on the go. Eliminating your firm’s physical mailroom is an efficiency and cost-savings game changer.

If you would like more information on how to digitally transform your law firm, contact Dan McCarter, Docufree’s Director of Legal Solutions or visit Digital Mailroom Solutions for Legal.

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