A reader asks:
I am a legal assistant in need of some quick advice. My employer recently asked me to track down a powerful and efficient program that would help take the entire firm electronic- files, client information, discovery. Is there one all-powerful program, or a line-up of key programs, that you would suggest to help take us virtual?
I get asked this question in one form or another on a regular basis.
I always suggest that the questioner take a look at the latest version of Ross Kodner‘s Paper Less Office presentation as the starting point. Let me also say congratulations to Ross on his recent wedding.
I’ve always liked Ross’s emphasis that scanning does not necessarily mean OCR and the presentation and article I link to above will help you understand the different factors that you should consider.
I’ve found that often people are really asking there is a fast, easy and inexpensive way to “go all electronic.”
My personal “quick advice” on getting something workable, simple and inexpensive in place would be to take three steps:
1. Buy an appropriate number of licenses for Adobe Acrobat 8 Professional. And I do mean that you should spend the extra money on the Adobe Acrobat 8 Professional version. This way you’ll use PDF as your standard format. You can scan directly into Acrobat, and it will index your PDF files, optimize file sizes, and let you organize and manage the files. It’s a powerful all-in-one solution. Familiarize yourself with all the features of Acrobat 8 Professional and I think you’ll agree. Note, too, that PDF is becoming a standard in electronic discovery as well as electronic filing.
2.Buy an appropriate number of scanners. This takes some thought. You’ll need to think through your workflow and how “electronic” you really want to get. My general sense is that in most offices an approach with one centralized, high-end (meaning fast and able to scan lengthy docs in a large volume) and a scattering of inexpensive scanners on desktops of the people who will actually use them is a good way to start. Do some research, identify scanners that get good reviews and the features you want. I notice that Ross (and others I know) seem to like the Fujitsu scanners these days. I’ve always been happy with HP scanners.
3. Install a desktop search program that will search networked computers. I like to add the desktop search piece because it adds the search layer to your all-electronic system. Acrobat 8 does a good job on searches, but the desktop search engines are fast, impressive and invaluable. Some are free. Features tend to evolve and change, so you’ll want to check the current feature sets and prices. I believe that currently Copernic Desktop Search (free) , Google Desktop Search (free) and X1 Professional ($50 per license) will search across networked computers. You might already have other search tools on your office network, too. I’ve used Copernic for a long time and am partial to it. I’m wary of Google out of a (perhaps misplaced) concern that my local info will become part of the Google data-mining ecosystem (not a small concern for lawyers with confidential client info).
There are many variations on this theme and you can definitely take more complicated approaches or build upon software (and hardware) you already own (e.g., document management software). Each will involve the three pieces: scanning software, scanner and organization/search tool.
That’s my quick answer to an increasingly common question. I’m interested in hearing reactions and how others might answer this question today.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]
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