Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Paperless Paradigm Shift (part 2)

The shift is from “files are paper in the cabinet,” to “files are electronic data in a cloud.”

I recently attended a lawyers’ conference. One speaker addressed the ways in which social media were affecting his civil practice.  He talked about how much of peoples’ lives is available online in places like Facebook, and how much time it took to print it all for his files.  The revolutionary instant access to huge piles of information was obvious to him, but the idea of grabbing a copy without using the printer had not yet hit.

Printing that data was the last thing you would want to do. It will be more difficult to share, more difficult to search, and not the best copy because printing it will distort it from the original Facebook format.  True, if you are operating in the old paradigm, printing it will make you comfortable, because it will be familiar; it will seem more secure. However, if all your files are electronic - and properly managed - all of that data is easier to search, share, and more secure.

If your lot in life is to toil as a civil lawyer, and you are in the middle of a gazillion-document case, imagine sending out this telegram a hour before that  tighten-the-screws meeting.

Office burned to the ground. Stop.
Lost everything except our pin stripes. Stop.
Pushing meeting back 20 – need to buy laptop. Stop.
Move meeting to Starbucks. Stop.
Will be there with all documents. Stop.
Hope you’re ready! Go.

Your Ultra Organized Opponent.

Notice: This is a revolution resulting in a vast amount of easily available information arising from the fact that documents are not dead trees stored in metal boxes, but data moving at light speed.

So, the next time you are filing your taxes electronically and you are wondering what the obscure paragraph about keeping copies of your stuff for X number of years means, consider this:
  • Keep all your electronic data electronic (and safe and secure); don’t convert it to paper
  • Keep your paper data paper (and safe and secure).
  • Instead of printing all your e-data to have one complete file why don’t you scan the paper into electronic form. Then put the paper into deep storage until the rules about keeping paper originals change.  If our taxing friends need a paper copy of your e-data, they can print it. You are keeping your document in its original form, and that’s the best record you can keep.

Next: Keeping your data safe and secure.