Iron Mountain Survey: Law Firms Closing the Gap Between Paper and Electronic Records
Findings show firms expanding their records management policy to include digital files, which can lead to improved collaboration, better client service and shortened time to revenue
BOSTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Like other organizations seeking speed and savings, law firms are making the transition from paper to electronic files. This comes according to a new survey by information management company Iron Mountain Incorporated (NYSE: IRM) that also found nearly one third havent yet set policies for handling digital files. This survey of more than 200 law firm professionals regarding their firms information management practices reveals an industry with established policies for storing, accessing and disposing of hardcopy documents and one still working to adopt the same level of governance for electronic files.
Chief among the findings, 28 percent of law firms say they have gone paperless (primarily use and maintain electronic files), or will in the next five years. An additional 29 percent are considering a plan to go this route as well. And while 79 percent of law firms have a records policy, 31 percent of those firms report that their policy only covers paper, not electronic records. The two findings suggest firms will have to broaden existing records management policies to include electronic files to accomplish their paperless objectives.
As part of their mission to manage their information, respondents indicated that:
- The future is now 10 percent of law firms surveyed have already made the transition from paper to primarily using electronic files;
- They dont have to go at it alone When it comes to destroying client records, a key step in the paper-to-electronic transition, 45 percent of law firms have access to and are aware of the guidelines set forth by their local or state bar association;
- And they are destroying their paper the right way Most are using destruction methods for their paper information that are secure, with 42 percent of law firms relying on a vendor to destroy paper documents, and 27 percent using office shredders.
For law firms, the benefits of using and managing electronic files are well understood more efficient information workflows and easier access to information, which leads to faster legal analysis, improved collaboration, better client service and shorter time to revenue, said Mike Holland, senior vice president and general manager, records management, Iron Mountain. But many firms still need to unify paper and electronic records policies, a key step in their transition towards a less paper-intensive environment. The consistent application of policy across both paper and electronic information is the cornerstone of complying with attorney ethical responsibilities, data privacy regulations and cost-effective information management.
Law firms making this transition can borrow the successful practices learned by peers and organizations from other industries:
- First, know what you have An effective records management program is equal parts inventory management, process implementation and policy enforcement. That first part, taking control of the records inventory, is often overlooked in the haste to design and deploy a policy. Taking the time to assess and document paper and electronic information assets what they are, what to keep and what can be disposed of is a key success factor.
- Use paper policy as an e-policy springboard Firms with a strong policy for managing paper documents have a leg up in developing polices for handling electronic files. These firms have already addressed critical issues such as determining required retention periods, establishing post-matter close records procedures and training attorneys and staff on the process for final pre-destruction review of documents eligible for destruction.
- Have a plan for going paperless If a paperless environment is the goal, have a plan to get there. With constrained internal resources, many firms engage experts familiar with law firms and digital conversion to help develop the transition strategy and implementation plan. A key element in the strategy will be a cost-effective and practical approach for converting needed paper documents to an electronic format.
- Set it, and then implement it Once firms establish a unified information management policy, they must train employees and attorneys to implement it so the firm gets the cost and efficiency benefits. Audits to track adoption and compliance are critical.
- When done with paper, get rid of it the right way Given law firms large volume of paper-based information, they should make sure their paper disposal methods render the documents unreadable and establish a secure chain of custody to meet legal and regulatory obligations.
To learn more about the Iron Mountain Law Firm Information Management Benchmark Report, click here to access the full survey findings and see how you measure up against your peers.
About Iron Mountain
Iron Mountain Incorporated (NYSE: IRM) provides information management services that help organizations lower the costs, risks and inefficiencies of managing their physical and digital data. The Companys solutions enable customers to protect and better use their informationregardless of its format, location or lifecycle stageso they can optimize their business and ensure proper recovery, compliance and discovery. Founded in 1951, Iron Mountain manages billions of information assets, including business records, electronic files, medical data, emails and more for organizations around the world. Visit www.ironmountain.com or follow the company on Twitter @IronMountain for more information.
Christian T. Potts, 617-535-8721
Kristen Georgian, 617-520-7042
Source: Iron Mountain IncorporatedCopyright Business Wire 2012