Five years ago our managing partner, Wade Cooper, shared his long-term vision for Jackson Walker’s file management strategy. He challenged us to stop talking about going paperless and actually do something about it. Our firm’s management realized that converting our workflow to an all-digital/electronic format would be a leading-edge innovation. Aside from the obvious advantages, our Managing Partner recognized the cost, mobility, efficiency, document access, and risk mitigation advantages to “paperless.”
Our immediate reaction? No way! How could we possibly accomplish such a feat? Jackson Walker has seven Texas locations with 370+ attorneys with its largest office in Dallas. At the time, we occupied 140,000 square feet and well over 15,000 linear feet – five floors’ worth – was paper document storage. An upcoming relocation of the Dallas office challenged us to make the vision a reality. Our footprint at the new office was going to be smaller (about 27% less space) so we concluded that most of the paper records had to go. The only question left to address for each document and file was, do we scan and shred or simply just shred? The answer was complicated and required specific workflows based on the practice group and matter type.
The technology that made our initiative possible was the integration of AccuRoute, an enterprise-class document capture and workflow platform that enables organizations to capture, process, route, and store document-centric content, and our iManage Document Management System (DMS).
The AccuRoute and iManage integration allowed us to create cover sheets with embedded profile information, which enabled us to scan large volumes of documents directly into the DMS. Users could stand at a multi-function printer (MFP) machine and scan the critical documents into AccuRoute. All profile fields were automatically populated so the document just needed to be named. AccuRoute also compressed the documents upon scanning, which helped us avoid soaring data storage costs. And since scanned documents were OCR’d upon scanning, they were text-searchable from the DMS and thus were easier and faster to find.
Much planning was done before the scanning could begin. On the AccuRoute front, we upgraded our software to the latest version and added servers to handle the additional volume.
We did substantial work with iManage, to be sure the filing structure and naming conventions were both consistent yet customized according to the practice group. Thanks to the flexibility of AccuRoute, each of our 14 practice groups were able to devise a solution that met its individual needs while still standardizing on a single approach and file naming convention.
An important goal in setting up the AccuRoute-iManage system was to instill trust so staff could comfortably let go of the paper. We needed to find one or two champions in each practice group to help us lead the charge to reassure people. Our IT organization created the necessary infrastructure to instill confidence in the solution, including managing the network and setting up colocation and backup facilities. Having unwavering support from the firm’s leadership remained crucial throughout this process.
We started the scanning project in earnest in March 2015, digitizing our entire intellectual property (IP) records room. We also digitized five fireproof safes full of client wills. Our closing binder room was scanned and electronic closing binders were the replacements. All the documents were scanned and hyperlinked. For litigation, we had to devise an index of documents that included the date, document name, position, answer, etc. We developed an electronic file that looked exactly like the paper file. Then, hyperlinks took users directly to the files they wanted to see inside of the DMS. The administrative departments of our firm also developed customized scanning processes for our marketing, accounting, human resources, and other operational departments.
When we moved into the new 104,000 square foot office in October 2015, we only moved approximately 3,700 linear feet of paper records storage, down from the original 15,000. At present, we are down to 2,500 linear feet of storage, a massive 80% reduction. Since our Dallas office move, the firm’s clients and other law firms have contacted us to learn about our massive records scanning project. We’ve become a trusted advisor for our clients on the subject. We consider this consulting a value-added service to our clients. With the success of the Dallas conversion behind us, we implemented similar initiatives in our Austin, San Antonio, and Houston offices in 2016.
One of the greatest benefits is our lawyers’ ability to access, view, and retrieve documents via tablets, home PCs and smartphones, which means they can service clients while no longer tied to the office. Also, multiple people can access the same files at the same time, further enhancing productivity.
Our paper file requirements have not grown – most people have permanently adapted to our electronic workflow. Because heavy litigation is an important part of JW, we will always have paper, but the paper is eventually discarded. We have stopped sending closed files off-site unless there’s a compelling legal reason for physical retention.
The elimination of rental fees, material costs, offsite storage costs, etc. have contributed to significant savings on behalf of the firm. Our goal is to eliminate the recurring storage cost of paper files. We are tackling long term storage to save decades of retention costs. In fact, we expect our offsite storage will be reduced by 90% within the next two years, with the goal of becoming fully “Paper Light” by late 2018.
Jackson Walker was a pioneer in this undertaking. The process was difficult, and we know that change is always hard. But we also are reminded that change is very rewarding in many ways.
Jackson Walker LLP
Jackson Walker provides clients comprehensive services in a broad range of practice areas, and its reach extends around the globe. Jackson Walker attorneys have represented clients in more than 85 countries and territories, and are a founding member of Globalaw, a worldwide network of law firms with offices throughout the U.S. and in over 165 cities internationally.