In 2016: Resolve to lose the (paper) weight

Our clients often ask “How do I start reducing paper?” Paper and file storage can be extremely costly and inefficient. Here are a few tips to get started:

  1. Use paper:  Sounds wrong, but getting attorneys to stop using paper is difficult. Even with all of today’s technology,  there is nothing easier than writing notes on a notepad. So use paper, but…don’t keep it. Scan and save the document electronically, then destroy the original.
  2. Keep the paper you have:  Again, sounds wrong, but your focus should be on reducing paper that is active. The thousands of boxes you have in storage can stay there. Focus on reducing the amount of new files you send to storage.
  3. Provide support personnel to convert paper: Tasking an attorney or secretary to scan their active documents is an administrative burden. Have your office services/reprographics or records department offer and market scanning  services. This can be as easy as physically scanning, or as complex as creating indexes and litigation support load files. Providing the resources to handle this administrative step will increase compliance.

Once you’ve taken these steps to reduce the amount of paper being produced at your firm, it’s time to pay closer attention to how you are storing it.

When Mattern is engaged to assist a firm with off-site records storage, we recommend that the firm have their vendor provide a complete inventory list, showing the status of all material and its last activity date. Almost invariably, we find that our clients are paying for air.

When you send a box to offsite storage, you are charged for the space it occupies – usually whether the box is there or not.  When you retrieve boxes, you continue to pay for that space.

As we review inventory lists, almost invariably we find boxes that have been outcarded for over a year. We’ve seen boxes outcarded in excess of ten years.  The firm was paying to store boxes that weren’t there!

So what can you do?

  1. Contact the requestor and see if they still have the box.  If the files cannot be sent back to storage, re-use the box barcode and send new storage back in an existing box.
  2. Request the vendor permanently withdraw the boxes. This eliminates monthly storage cost. You will need competitive permanent removal rates to make this financially sound.

The most important tip is to get started. Taking a first step is the only way to move toward your goal.