Lawyers Continue to Move Toward the “Papermore” Office?

At least ten years ago, Nicholas Negroponte was talking about the move from a world of atoms (stuff) to a world of bits (data or electrons). In the world of electronic discovery, speakers constantly refer to a study that suggests that 93% of documents created today will never be printed on paper. You see concern everywhere about the amount of trees being cut down to produce paper.
On the other hand, lawyers love their paper. In that context, it was a little sad to run across this item on the ABA’s Site-Tation that says, well, just let me quote this:

According to the 2006 Legal Technology Survey Report, 61% of attorneys save email related to a case or client matter by printing out a hard copy.

As John McEnroe might say, “you cannot be serious.” Actually, it’s probably a good thing that we didn’t find the percentage of lawyers who later scan those printouts of emails as TIFFs to reconvert them to digital form.
In fairness, the ABA’s Legal Technology Survey is decidedly not a scientific survey and these results should not be taken as pure fact. However . . . lawyers do seem to be swimming against the side.
Given that experts like Ross Kodner have been talking about the “Paper LESS” office to large audiences for many years, these numbers are a little distressing. It looks like Ross and others have more work to do to get the message across. This isn’t even a step toward a paperless office – it’s a move toward a “papermore” office.
When people outside the legal profession ask me, as they routinely do, why lawyers are not moving into electronic discovery, this story and statistic may be “Exhibit A” in my answer. If you are looking to hire a lawyer for a litigation matter that requires electronic discovery, asking whether they use this approach might be an eye-opener.
By the way, one of the major lessons from the Katrina and Rita disasters was the vulnerability of paper records in disasters.
Why do many think that lawyers are slow adopters of technology? Now you have an idea.
This item did give me an idea for a potential killer app for lawyers – a portable printer for Blackberries. Think about it.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (]
Learn more about electronic discovery at Dennis Kennedy’s Electronic Discovery Resources page.
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  1. says

    Negroponte’s book “Being Digital” was one of my early influences in trying to figure out how to apply technology to get things done “better”. I must admit that I bought into the idea of ‘paperless’ almost completely.
    As you illustrate here, though, in many ways ‘paperless’ really just means shifting the burden of actually printing the paper. The data is transmitted as bits, but still ends up as atoms once it gets there. Rest assured, this is not limited to the legal profession.
    I’ve seen many cases over the past 10 years where one part of a corporate hierarchy (usually at the staff level) has been able to show cost savings because of reduced printing and shipping costs while at the same time the line level shows increased costs because they are now faced with the burden of printing, etc.