Today I spent an hour at the County Courthouse at Probate Court dealing with an audit. Apparently a few necessary documents had not been filed and needed to be filed before the estate could be administered. The problem with the audit was, these documents had been filed. In some cases the documents had been filed twice. The clerk brought out the case file, in an old beat up manila envelope that was overflowing with stamped documents and duplicate copies. They were in no particular order (though I would venture to guess they were somewhat chronological). They were simply stuffed into an envelope and placed in a filing cabinet.
This disorganization is typical of smaller law firms as well, where red rope files and endless paper documents are shoved into cardboard boxes and towering filing cabinets. The problem with these methods (aside from the glaring lack of technological advancement) is that they are inefficient. Inefficiencies in legal filing drive up costs, frustrate lawyers (especially young lawyers and law students), lead to disorganized files, multiple fillings of the same document and administrative waste. All of these problems could be solved with an electronic filing system.
But aren’t electronic filing systems costly and difficult to secure? Perhaps, but the long term efficiencies gained by the system outweigh the upfront cost. Think of it this way, if you had the ability to pay down the principle on your mortgage in one or two payments and avoid the interest or choose to pay the minimum for 30 years, which would you choose? The choice is similar with an e-filing system. While the cost upfront is high, the reduction of administrative waste and firm waste (in terms of paper cost, supply cots, labor cost, billables, etc.) would be drastically reduced in the long run. This long term savings would essentially pay for the upfront cost.
The legal profession is one where change takes time. Attorneys who are 85 years old are still practicing, still using typewriters, and definitely not reading this blog. The technology is incomprehensible. It is necessary however to improve the profession, to connect with new and better clients, to improve the law and society by reducing waste and creating efficient systems with technologically efficient lawyers. If we don’t other countries will