For the most part, the vision of the paperless office remains exactly that—a vision. More than most vertical industries, the legal field is choked with paper documents (court briefs, depositions, forms, letters). Most law firms gave up the goal of eliminating paper a long time ago.
But that doesnt mean they cant reduce costs by cutting down on the sheer volume of paper that flies around a typical law firm on a daily basis. Ice Miller, a full-service law firm in Indianapolis, found it could do just that as part of an upgrade of its office copier hardware.
In mid-2005, Ice Millers lease agreement with Xerox for multifunction copier machines was coming up for review. Tony DeLoera, Ice Millers chief technology officer, was unsatisfied with the level of process automation and integration Xerox offered at the time, so he invited a handful of local office solutions providers including Ikon Office Solutions and CopyCo Office Solutions to come to the headquarters to present hardware-software combos that would best suit the needs of the 225-attorney firm.
Ease of use was paramount, so DeLoera said he asked the providers to set up their proposed technology solutions in the office, where attorneys and staff members could try out the features for themselves. Ice Miller had already invested in a document management system from Hummingbird, which was acquired by OpenText in October.
Now, in addition to selecting a new hardware vendor, DeLoera wanted to find a software package that would run on the machine itself. This would bridge the gap between Hummingbird system and the multifunction machines, allowing documents to be converted to electronic form and routed while the attorney is standing at the machine.
The first part of the office equipment-buying decision was simple, DeLoera said. In September 2005, upon the advice of the solutions providers, Ice Miller leased from Ikon Office Solutions approximately 20 5570 multifunction copiers (with 55-page-per-minute black-and-white copy capacity), several 5800 color copiers and a few high-end copiers that print at 105 ppm to go in the firms copy center.
At that point, the jury was still out as to the electronic copying and routing software, DeLoera said. Ikon demonstrated software from eCopy and Omtool, both of which ran on the Canon platform, as well as other vendors equipment.
Trent Moss, Ice Millers Indianapolis-area Ikon representative, advised DeLoera that either application would fit nicely for walk-up document conversion and routing. Both tools had hooks into Hummingbird, eliminating the need for manual integration.
In the end, the choice came down to which package would be easier to use, DeLoera said. He planned to offer training for whichever tool he chose, but he also noted that lawyers were not likely to sit still for much of that. Intuitive operation was paramount in his selection process.
That was the chief differentiation between eCopy and Omtool. Whereas Omtool requires users to plan in advance what they want to do with the document, eCopy lets people choose on the fly. This was a much better fit for harried lawyers, DeLoera said.
“They can walk up and scan a document and e-mail it or send it to the document management system right there,” said DeLoera. “Or they can go back to their desktop and convert it to Word or do lots of other things.”
DeLoera chose eCopy ShareScan OP (which runs on the copier) and eCopy Desktop (which runs on the users PC) in October 2005.
eCopy was designed for ease of use, according to Vicki Malis, vice president of marketing for eCopy, in Nashua, N.H.
“A customer could walk up to any networked copier that has eCopy software and figure out—without any training and with the push of some very simple buttons—how to capture the image, convert it digitally, and send it as fax or e-mail or directly to a back-end application like Hummingbird,” said Malis.
Routing documents via eCopy is inherently more secure than leaving a fax sitting out, Malis said, and establishes an electronic audit trail. eCopy is popular in paper-heavy industries such as insurance, health care and mortgage lending.
Installation of both software and hardware went with few hitches, according to DeLoera.
“We had no issues with the stability of eCopy,” DeLoera said.
After using eCopy Version 8.5 with the eCopy Share-Scan operating system for a few months, DeLoera said he enthusiastically agreed to be a beta tester of Version 9.5. This version (which is now available) offers a significant advantage over Version 8.5 in that it saves documents as PDFs by default. In Version 8.5, files were automatically saved with a .CPY extension, according to DeLoera.
Although this was a variant of PDF and users could elect to save files as PDFs, .CPY caused some confusion among employees and clients. PDFs that are stored on Hummingbird can be searched and have blackout and whiteout capabilities. These features have increased usage of Hummingbird.
“We have millions of documents in our DM [data management] system. Theyre using it much more than in the past,” said DeLoera.
By January of this year, the Ice Miller offices had seen such a dramatic reduction in faxing thanks to eCopy that DeLoera said he began to wonder about the fate of the companys fax system.
“Faxing went down by 30 to 40 percent right off the bat. Fax costs to the client are going down,” DeLoera said. Printer use has gone down as well, he said, reducing the cost of the printer service contract, and the load on the copy center has been cut significantly.
So, while Ice Miller may not be a paperless office any time soon, it has drastically reduced its use of paper and ink cartridges. Fax chargeback to clients has dropped so much that the firm is looking into charging clients for scanning documents and e-mailing PDFs.
eCopy helps companies cut their use of paper and ink and speeds business processes, Malis added.
The software also can help companies that are figuring out where to apportion resources. Since Ice Miller, for example, requires users to punch in a department code for chargeback purposes, that usage history provides a handy record of where copiers should be physically located in the business.
The attorneys high usage of eCopy, both at the copiers and on their desks, is the best endorsement DeLoera could have asked for.
“Theres a lot of self-service now when it comes to the attorneys,” DeLoera said. “They can do it so much quicker themselves. They dont want to wait [for] staff to do it for them.”
Lauren Gibbons Paul is a freelance writer in Waban, Mass. Contact her at [email protected]
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Case File: Ice Miller, Indianapolis
- Organizational snapshot: A full-service law firm with 225 lawyers, 40 paralegals and 250 support staff members and offices in Chicago, Washington and Naperville, Ill.
- Business need: The firm needed a new copier hardware-software solution. Ease of use for the attorneys was the chief consideration
- Technology partner: Ikon Office Solutions, Indianapolis office
- Recommended solution: Canon copier-eCopy document imaging software solution, offering simple integration with the firms Hummingbird document