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One of the most nagging issues facing law firms in the digital age is how to improve attorney productivity. Research indicates attorneys only spent roughly 30 percent of each work day on billable hours tasks. In other words, lawyers are only working billable hour tasks for 2.4- hours out of an 8-hour day. The rest of the day is usually spent doing administrative work.

How do law firms improve attorney productivity?

According to legal workflow pundits, there are at least three ways in which attorneys can free up time spend on documents and document-related processes. While client confidentiality is an issue, there are proven ways to monitor and harness document capture and workflow solutions.

Utilizing e-paper flow methods takes the worry out of manual document handling, a process often fraught with human errors.

Case documents can be instantly harnessed with multifunction printers, office scanners, mobile apps, cloud-based document management software, case/client folders, content management systems, enterprise resource planning systems or other systems. While some of these solutions may seem futuristic, today's e-device usage is on the up tick in many workplaces, including law firms.

Many law firms are investigating, if not already actively using, cloud-based enterprise content management software, mobile devices, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI). While AI and machine learning is the way of the future, a cautionary note is necessary: recovery from a hack, natural disaster, electrical issue or human error will take serious time and effort. Something a law firm might not withstand. Moreover, protection of client information always takes first priority.

Despite the somewhat obvious glitches present when using any form of AI and machine learning, the latest International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) 2018 survey says 100 percent of the largest law firms have indicated they are in pursuance of AI projects and over 33 percent said they have one or more machine learning tools or AI tools in production.

Harnessing AI and machine learning can identify and automatically redact clients’ personal information, allowing private information to remain private and concealed. That means if a document somehow get into the hands of an unauthorized person, the information is protected. The beauty of using AI and machine learning is that the documents can be automatically routed to where they need to go.

The more a busy law firm uses automation, the faster lawyers can attend to billable hours tasks and client services and the less risk there is of a human error exposing sensitive information.

Another method of assisting lawyers to get the administrative duties done quickly is to utilize PDF creation and editing. In the past, this has been something most lawyers avoided because PDFs were considered finicky and challenging. However, with advances in technology attorneys can now encrypt, merge documents, password protect, re-arrange pages, change text, add new form fields, add and replace images, redact their documents, and allow others to review them. Additionally, text search helps attorneys find what they need right away, instead of spending billable time manually searching.

Of course, PDF, portable document format is a shorthand reference for going paperless. An admirable idea indeed, striving to achieve a paperless law office.

Without a doubt, attorneys generate less paper by using editable PDFs, In addition, they do not run the risk of having a sensitive document going astray and ending up in the wrong hands. With the newest in editing tools for PDFs, lawyers can work with documents across the firm together with other collaborators.

One other unique approach to protect client files is to use secure multifunction printers with the proviso that documents sent to print are printed right away. There are many print jobs that get started and the party responsible for it walks away while the printing tray sits with a private client document. In fact, approximately 30 percent of office print jobs are left behind, abandoned, and roughly 60 percent of companies have experienced a data breach involving a printer.

How does a law office resolve the errant document print issue? One method is “follow me” printing where the printer waits for authentication from the user before printing. That may not stop the user from walking away once the document is being printed, however.

While law firm offices follow technology developments in productivity, office management and organization, security remains the main concern. Attorneys need to make sure to balance technological advancement and client security.

About Author

Kerrie Spencer is a staff contributor to Bigger Law Firm Magazine.

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