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.
Court cases can go on for years, and even when theyre closed, related documents must remain immediately accessible. For these reasons, Preti Flaherty has not yet had to deal much with archiving of electronic documents. However, going forward, the use of ScanStation OP and Interwoven will make it easier to archive such documents, Lyle said.
Although Lyle hasnt done a formal cost-savings analysis, he sees two areas in which the ScanStation OP has reduced costs and a third area in which there is potential for savings.
“When we started, we would send out 50 to 60 faxes a day; now we have just two or three a day,” Lyle said. He added that ScanStation OP devices have limited the amount of processing that paralegals need to do at night—the ability to store documents on the network has allowed Preti Flaherty to consolidate evening processing at the firms headquarters instead of staffing additional offices during off-hours.
A feature expected in Version 3.0 of the ScanStation OP software has Lyle looking forward to additional cost savings: an automated Bates system feature that numbers legal documents as they are scanned. (The Bates system is a long-used method for referring to evidentiary documents.)
“For the client, this is a huge timesaver,” said Lyle. “Nothing is worse than a paralegal peeling [number] labels and sticking them to paper—its expensive for clients.”
In addition to upgrading the ScanStation OP software from Version 2.0 to 3.0, a move that is expected to happen this year, Lyle said Preti Flaherty will upgrade to Version 8.0 of Interwovens Worksite, to take advantage of the matter-centric document management capabilities introduced in that release. (The current version uses a profile-based document management system.)
“Matter-centric is more treelike and mirrors the way paper is stored,” said Lyle. “Matter-centric improves the user experience because of fewer steps, and filing is more accurate.”
In addition to using eCopy with Interwoven, attorneys occasionally need a simple, convenient way to scan documents repeatedly, said Lyle. In those instances, they use the customization capabilities of eCopy, called Quick Connect, to create a single-step interface on the ScanStation OP for scanning and distribution.
Preti Flaherty also employs eCopy Desktop software, which is a component of the firms standard PC software image. eCopy Desktop allows Preti Flaherty staff to share and manage revisions through tools for marking up a document or redacting content.
The law firm also uses the eCopy Desktop software for managing form-based tasks such as completing expense reports. Using the application, the firms staff can scan forms so that signature fields can be completed by dropping a signature graphic onto a form using the eCopy Desktop software.
Technical Analyst Michael Caton can be reached at [email protected].