The Link Between the Digital Office and Improved Intangibles

I’ve posted about how Adobe Acrobat 9 can revolutionize your law practice by lowering operational costs and increased earnings.  And there’s plenty more to be said on both fronts. But, in this post, I’ll switch my focus from hard to soft costs; i.e., “intangibles.”  There continues to be an increased focus on “intangibles” in the workplace—the costs that, although difficult to quantify, have a direct impact on profitability.  Employee engagement and satisfaction are intangibles that are linked directly to client satisfaction and retention, firm revenue, and firm profitability. 

Similarly, employee turn-over can have disastrous consequences for firms that ignore the value of employee morale. The cost of repltaking notesacing an employee is estimated to be 100% of the individual’s yearly salary for staff members, 150% for long-term employees and management, and as much 300% for junior associates when partner mentoring time is factored into the equation. Based on these numbers, a firm’s intangibles can have an enormous impact—positive or negative—on the bottom line. 

And how can the digital office contribute to firm intangibles? The digital office enables firm staff to become more efficient in day-to-day tasks. Increased efficiency means more time for other tasks and different types of work. When freed from menial duties, such as repetitive copying and filing, staff can be given more challenging and substantive assignments.

The benefits of this should be obvious—a challenged and stimulated workforce is a more engaged workforce. Engaged employees are more motivated and that motivation leads to increased productivity. The more successes an employee experiences, the more engaged he or she becomes, thereby further continuing the cycle of positive results.

Additionally, the digital office enables attorneys to take their practice with them anywhere, provided they have access to an available internet connection.  Eliminating the need for attorneys to be in the office just for the sake of being there, workers in the digital office find that “work-life balance” may not be as elusive as once thought.  The modern workforce has made it increasingly clear that flexible work schedules are at the top of the priority list.  And Gen Y workers, the most recent generation to flood the recruiting office, have their own set of demands; and flexibility is high on that list.

Are you convinced yet?  It’s true.  Go ahead, start a digital revolution!

The Digital [Office] Revolution: Go Ahead, Make the Switch.

The paperless office may be a myth, at least according to authors Abigail J. Sellen and Richard H. R. Harper, who’ve earned Malcolm Gladwell’s stamp of approval.  But an office with less paper is very much a reality.  So let’s put our biases aside–from here out we’ll refer not to a “paperless office” but, instead, to a “digital office.”  For some background to this series, see yesterday’s post, A Plea for PDF: How Adobe Acrobat Can Revolutionize Your Practice.  In this post, we’ll talk about the potential cost savings that can result from switching to a digital office.  Tomorrow we’ll touch on the other, less tangible benefits.  Later in the week, we’ll get to the specifics about how you can go about implementing a revolution in your workplace.

What is involved with a digital office?

In the broadest sense, the phrase “digital office” means a business that operates with electronic, as opposed to paper, files. The “paperless office” was used initially but became less popular as it became less probable to actually occur. “Less paper” is more realistic and the goal of the digital office is not to never use paper. The goal of the digital office is to increase effectiveness while decreasing reliance on paper files.

In a more specific sense, a digital office is one in which all documents, records, and files are managed on the computer in electronic form instead of in filing cabinets in paper form. All documents, whether created internally or externally, are converted to an electronic file and kept in a document management system (DMS).paperless office empty records storage

How can a digital office lead to higher earnings?

Lawyers who have made the switch to digital experience any number of positive benefits. Perhaps the easiest of which to observe is the increased efficiency and time savings that result almost immediately. Time savings is a benefit enjoyed by staff, paraprofessionals, and attorneys alike.

By freeing staff and paraprofessionals from repetitive clerical work, they are able to turn their attentions to more advanced tasks. This enables attorneys to spend more time on client-specific work. In turn, the firm generates more revenue.

How can a digital office lead to lower operational costs?

In the long term, operational costs can be reduced significantly by converting to a digital office. Reduced paper consumption is, perhaps, a more obvious savings opportunity. But using less paper is just the start—think of all of the overhead costs required to organize, store, and dispose of that paper. From banker’s boxes to redwelds to file folders, the purchase of office supplies for storing and organizing paper files becomes unnecessary.

Photocopying costs are reduced dramatically. Documents can be accessed by any attorney in the firm, so the need to send a paper copy via interoffice mail is eliminated. When pleadings are received, the client can be sent a copy via e-mail instead of in paper format, in which case the savings extends beyond the copy cost to include the cost of an envelope and postage.

Another, more long-term, benefit of the digital office is reduced storage costs. In the digital office, closed files are not boxed up and shipped off-site for long-term storage. Instead, they are burned onto a CD or saved in another electronic format, which can then be tucked away in a binder in a filing cabinet and backed up on the firm’s server. If needed later, there is no need to call the Records Department and request the file be hauled back. Simply pull the needed documents from your desktop.

A Plea for PDF: How Adobe Acrobat Can Revolutionize Your Practice

It’s true. Adobe Acrobat 9 is the best legal-technology product there is.  Law Technology News confirmed this conclusion at its annual awards last week at LegalTech when it selected Acrobat as the winner for “New Product of the Year.”  (Second year in a row, by the way.) 

I am passionate about Acrobat.  No, really.  It has revolutionized the way I practice law and I am committed to communicating its benefits with others.  Just ask anyone in my department–they’ll attest to my near-zealous devotion.  I’ve been totally digital since 2005.  (I prefer the term, “digital.”  “Paperless” is a bit exaggerated.)  So I’m always surprised to hear others say that the conversion to digital is a pipe dream.  It’s not hard, I promise. 

There are so many benefits and features of integrating PDF into your legal practice that I can’t begin to address them all here.  Instead, I’m going to cover some of my favorites in a series of posts over the next several weeks.  To get you started, I’ll leave you with this video, called Stop Stupid PDF Syndrome Now.  If you don’t “get it” entirely, then you definitely should stay tuned for the upcoming posts in this series. 

From the video’s creators:

Stop creating stupid PDF files for your printer. Preserve all the power of PDF by asking for Adobe’s PDF Print Engine technology.

This is a great introduction to the value of using the “print to Adobe PDF” feature instead of scanning hard copies of your documents.