Firm Lays Down the Document Law

Case Study: eCopy, Interwoven technology ease client, ECF Communications.

Four years ago, the law firm of Preti Flaherty Beliveau Pachios & Haley LLP began to aggressively adopt technology to make communications with clients and interaction with state legal-filing systems more efficient. The investment Preti Flaherty made then continues paying dividends, particularly as the firm strives to stick to the letter of the regulatory law.

In 2001, as part of its document workflow process, Preti Flaherty implemented eCopy Inc.s ScanStation OP (Open Platform), a device that connects digital copiers to document workflow applications, and Interwoven Inc.s Worksite document management application, said Wayne Lyle, director of information systems at the full-service law firm based in Portland, Maine. eWEEK Labs got a firsthand look at the integrated system during a visit to the firms headquarters in late June.

Preti Flahertys 155 employees, including 80 attorneys, use ScanStation OP devices with Canon Inc. digital copiers and Worksite to manage documents across five offices in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. The ScanStation OP devices in each office allow Preti Flahertys legal staff to be more responsive and adaptable by bridging the gap between the still-paper-oriented nature of legal practice and clients and court systems demands for immediate access to information.

The transactional nature of legal practice means that many documents move between clients and legal teams—sometimes multiple times. There can be a good deal of document markup, and, in some branches of law—such as intellectual property, trademark and patent work—there is also a need to share drawings and photographs.

The ScanStation OP devices attach to digital copiers and scanners and include an integrated keyboard and display. ScanStation OP software lets users send scanned documents in TIFF or PDF format to other users, network storage devices or document management applications through e-mail or direct connections to document management applications such as Worksite.

Lyle said the use of ScanStation OP devices and Worksite has greatly decreased the amount of time and effort spent sharing documents with clients, and it has improved the firms ability to track documents.

"On the low end, we use eCopy [ScanStation OP devices] in lieu of faxing," said Lyle. "Prior to this, if a client wanted a document, it had to go to a fax center. Now, an attorney can go directly to [a ScanStation OP] device and send [the document] to the client. Clients dont want to wait, and the attorney can now send documents much faster—the big difference is with a 50-page document. Now, anyone can walk up to a copier and send a document out through e-mail instead of fax."

In addition to simplifying communications with clients, said Lyle, document management technology is necessary because of the transition to ECF (electronic court filing) that is under way in state courts.

Much of the data filed via ECF is in Adobe Systems Inc. PDF, Microsoft Corp. Word .doc or Corel Corp. WordPerfect .wpd formats. But exhibits that accompany a filing—including drawings, photos, signed documents and handwritten notes—can also be scanned and filed electronically using such systems as ScanStation OP. In fact, said Lyle, when Preti Flaherty opened its office in Boston earlier this year, the ScanStation OP was standard issue.

Regulatory compliance—of one kind or another—affects nearly every area of the practice, Lyle said. Having documents readily available is key to meeting those requirements and/or answering questions about them, he added. "The timesaver will be in not retrieving boxes [of paper documents]," Lyle said. "[By using Interwoven,] we may not have to call storage, get a courier and then make sure everything gets back to the proper place."

The integration between eCopy and Interwoven tools is very important, providing a way to scan and then manage documents.

"Four years ago, we drew a line in the sand," Lyle said. "We introduced eCopy and Interwoven [technology] at the same time because, just as volumes of paper can be a problem, a large number of e-documents can become unmanageable."

Furthermore, once a document is added to the system, it is much more accessible than it would have been in paper-only form. Lyle said attorneys often need access to information remotely, whether working at a client location, in court or at home.

Next page: Wheels of justice.