Cost Comparison of Maintaining a Paper v. Digital Immigration Practice

In early August, we sponsored a webinar on Best Practices for Paperless & Cost-Saving Protocols. As far as speakers go, we had two of the leading immigration attorneys in the U.S.: Paul Zulkie of Zulkie Partners, LLC and Gerard Chapman, of Chapman Law Firm. Each attorney has practiced immigration law for over twenty years and their experience managing highly successful law practices provided valuable insight about having their immigration practices “go paperless.” The preparation and moderation of the webinar allowed me great insight into many of the questions attendees asked about going paperless. The three primary considerations I extracted from the webinar were the following:

ADOPTING A HYBRID APPROACH

When folks read about practices adopting paperless strategies, they immediately fear that no paper is allowed. It’s a strange concept because for most offices, going paperless actually means using less paper (and sometimes way less paper). In other words, it’s okay to adopt a hybrid approach. You don’t have to go all-in-or-nothing.

  • For starters, adopting a policy that reduces the printing of emails is a good way to approach the paperless goal. Printing emails on a limited basis can significantly reduce the amount of paper that gets placed in your client folders. You may end up saving a lot of physical space from thinner file folders too!
  • Another approach is scanning all government notices into your digital client files. This way, you’ll have all relevant government notices handy when managing a case. If there are paralegals or attorneys in different offices or who work remotely, they can access the data that much faster, especially on time-sensitive cases.
  • A third approach is to digitize all old files that have been closed as a way to begin the “paperless” process. This way, you manage the goal one chunk at a time. (This one being the chunk of closed files.)

MAKING MORE TIME FOR MORE CLIENTS

When determining to what extent an office should digitize their client data, many practitioners focus on the cost of digitizing data. It’s usally at this point that practitioners either see the value of digitizing their data or they use cost in order to rationalize the status quo (remaining a paper-based office).  However, practitioners forget that time is their most valuable asset. The reason why most attorneys digitize their client data is to save time so that they can help more clients and strategize on how to improve their practices in other ways.  The less time they spend searching for client documents and files means the more time they have actually helping clients who need legal assistance.

MAKING THE TRUE COST-ANALYSIS BETWEEN PAPER AND DIGITAL

Another often overlooked factor is the long-term cost of remaining a paper-based practice. The reality is that there will always be costs associated with maintaining any kind of practice that obligates a business owner to keep client records. (This is one of the privileges of practicing law.) The truly important question is to ask yourself, “Which cost makes more sense for your practice in the long-term?”  There are many costs associated with staying a paper-based office, including physical storage, off-site storage, retrieving off-site files, destruction of files, time searching for files and additional office supplies. Download a more detailed cost-comparison PDF chart here. When attorneys actually break down the long term costs and compare it with the cost of maintaining digital files, for many, it’s an easy decision to make.  In fact, this was the consensus with many leading immigration attorneys who opt for an immigration case management system like EDGE.