West Professional Development recently packed up our offices and moved into a new space within the Thomson Reuters complex. Having outgrown our previous location's capacity, it is wonderful to have our entire team together providing for increased access, better communication, and more camaraderie. The actual move, however, I could have done without!
There is little I like less than packing as it always reminds me how much "stuff" and paper I deal with on a daily basis. MCLE rules vary, but most states require that records be retained for a minimum of four years. With several hundred live courses and several thousand online courses presented each year - we have a LOT of paper! And as I've been with West Professional Development for more than nine years, I've generated and retained plenty of my own.
As technology has improved, so too has the ability to create a paperless office. With our recent move, I have looked into what that would look like for my office, and for the accreditation team as a whole.
Why go paperless? In a recent study, office workers from various industries, including legal, estimated that they spend an average of two minutes per output waiting for documents to print. With an average of 15 print jobs per day, this adds up to 30 minutes of wasted time each day - a huge cost to employers.
And in addition to saving on the physical strain of moving dozens of boxes of paper files, there are many benefits to maintaining a paperless office. These include:
- Viewing documents from anywhere in the world. As business becomes more global, it allows offices to become more mobile.
- More easily finding and retrieving of documents and searching within them.
- Easier and faster filing of saved documents.
- Saves expense and space considerations of paper storage.
- Lessens the adverse environmental effects of paper - it is green.
- Electronic backup available so there is no need to worry about destruction of paper documents related to fire, flood, theft, etc.
- Additional security by controlling the electronic access to information.
Previous concerns regarding the legality of retaining only electronic copies of documents are lessening. Courts and legislatures are now creating exceptions to the common law rule requiring the production of the original writing or document into evidence, and instead allowing for the routine admission of electronic copies of the original document.
That is not to say, however, that there are no risks associated with becoming entirely paperless. The real risk of losing an electronic document due to a technology glitch or human error is very real, and may be a case of information lost permanently with no paper backup retained. Additionally in the law firm context, a client file is the client's property unless he or she authorizes its destruction, so there is a risk of liability if documents are lost or corrupted, even if accidentally.
Do I think that West Professional Development, or the Accreditation Team within the business, or even I will be paperless anytime soon? Probably not. But as I finish unpacking the dozens of boxes of paper files into many, many file cabinets - a girl can dream!