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February 22, 2008

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Document scanning is great. I have heard time and time again how much of an impact it has made for companies that have moved to do this. All positive in the long run. At first it might take a little work to get the system going and everything, but overall it can make a big difference. It saves time and resources that can be put to other things that are a lot more important for your business.

I have always been committed to being on the vanguard of technology. We run on TimeMatters 9 SR3 and PCLaw 9.2. We began to go paperless on July 23, 2003 when we had a going-away party for the photocopier, replaced by desktop Fujitsu documents scanners on everyone's desk. The people who process the mail have higher speed scanners. About a month later the fax machine left town in favor of eFax. Every document that arrives and leaves our office is stored as a pdf. If we want physical copies, we print them as needed. The paper originals are dropfiled into labeled folders and forgotten unless needed. The paper documents are sent to the client when the case concludes. We maintain the pdf images indefinitely. We scan using Acrobat. We have a folders on a central hard drive, one for each case. We just scan the documents into the folders and do a save-as. Then we import records into the document list in TimeMatters and tag the documents to the TimeMatters case records. We OCR documents on a case-by-case basis as needed using the OCR feature in Acrobat (we have Acrobat Standard on most machines and Acrobat Pro on a few). We have an Acrobat password cracker to manipulate Acrobat files if the design isn't what is needed for a particular situation. We sign our documents with the Acrobat pencil tool. Paper forms are scanned into Acrobat and fill-in fields applied. We send and receive all our faxes over the Internet using Efax.

The key to going paperless is to take a very hard line against those who resist it, inside and outside your firm. We do not hire people who are uncomfortable with technology, regardless of what other talents they may have. We don't accomodate digitally challenged people in any way. Instead, we set up our office so that it is physically impossible to do many things the oldfashioned way. We produce documents to opposing counsel by Email if it's just a few and on CD-ROM if voluminous. We have MILITANTLY insisted that photocopy services and opposing counsel NOT send us paper, even if it causes hard feelings. The result has been a tremendous cost, labor, and time savings which has enabled us to better serve our clients. We are a Twenty-First Century law firm, and proud of it.

I have to say I've had extremely bad luck with IRIS. The OCR piece is extremely poor. I once did a comparison of a difficult document - magazine article, 2 columns, old, mediocre xerox, between IRIS and Abbyy. Abbyy had 8 errors on the page, but IRIS had 46!
I've been on the phone with HP tech support concerning scanning and they recommend scanning in color to improve recognition. Of course, that jacks up the file size tremendously.
I do not recommend IRIS to my clients.

Following up on the comment about eCopy and how it pops up the OCR'd document in the window...

With eCopy Desktop you have a batch conversion engine that comes with it called the eCopyConverter. Its in the bin directory with the product and it can be used to process a lot of documents in batches. Its designed to be run from a commandline or from its built in UI. This is a great alternative when trying to process a lot of documents.

You could also look into a OCR server from a company like IRIS that would allow you to process a lot of documents through OCR very quickly.

One of the more intriguing products to scan into and get search able content is Microsoft's One note. It can pull text from scanned images, photos, business cards and even spoken word. I have used One Note in meetings and recorded the action items as they were being reviewed and then searched for them in One Note after it has pulled out the text. Very cool technology and from my experience its pretty useful. I also have had good luck using it while I'm driving to take down notes and then search the content when I get back to the office.

Jake-

John makes some excellent points in this post and it is obvious that he has had a great deal of experience with scanning documents and document imaging. As a representative of eCopy, I would like to add a couple of points to the conversation:

First, eCopy has software for both MFPs and desktop scanners. The software for the desktop is called eCopy Desktop and you can try it free for 45 days by downloading it at http://www.ecopy.com/Products_eCopy_Desktop.asp. See the link that says "Download 45 Day Evaluation" under the Next Steps box.

Second, the software company Open Archive just introduced a product that works with eCopy ShareScan at the MFP for image enhancement and automated routing of scanned documents. See the press release from Open Archive at http://www.openarchive.com/pr_oas-ecopy02-13-08.pdf.

Phil,
Quite right - although in a number of states (New Jersey, for example, where I am), ethics opinions are leaning toward paperless, i.e., the ability to destroy files if they are scanned except in areas like wills, estate planning, etc. This varies by state.
Are you aware that Worldox GX SR1 has a new document retention policy feature? Takes some work to implement (i.e., the same type of document - correspondence - might be retained for different lengths of time depending on the type of matter it is linked to. Contact me separately if you wish to discuss.
John Heckman

Sorry about the giant blob of text in my comment. I guess posting a comment from a BlackBerry strips all of the formatting out.

You are right about the DMS software. We use Worldox and the ONLY bad thing I can say about Worldox is that they do not come in Macintosh flavor. It is the best software I have ever owned. Period. On other topics, scanning old files takes a huge amount of time. Spend LOTS of money and get really good scanners. We have them with some kind of witchcraft that detects if the feeder has sucked 2 sheets at once. But tagging documents is the most time intensive of all. Choose your taxonomy system with care. The technology of records management (document ==! record) is the easy part. The hard part is the human systems part. Deciding when something will be saved. WHAT will be saved? For how long (hint: foreverrrr is not acceptable). What happens to the paper you scan? Can you shred it? When? What will the State Bar say? What if you need to introduce a document at trial and that pesky plaintiff's lawyer keeps piping up with "Objection! Hearsay.". Etc. OTOH I would never go back to paper files. @philiphodgen (Twitter)

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