The Paperless Law Practice: Getting the most out of your scanner

March 13, 2015

paperless officeIf you want your office to be paperless, you need the right tools to make that happen and to keep your paperless office running smoothly.

While there are a number of pieces of hardware necessary for the conversion to and continued maintenance of your paperless office: a scanner.

Having the right scanner can certainly make the conversion to a paperless office relatively painless, but it’s even more important to make full use of your scanning capabilities – which means getting the most out of your scanner.

For best results, your scanner should have the following functionalities:

  • Automatic paper feeding;
  • Wireless scanning capability;
  • Optical character recognition (OCR);
  • Ability to scan in color; and
  • Ability to scan in at least 300 dots per inch (dpi).

That may seem like a lot of requirements, but each one is important for a law practice.

Automatic paper feeding will save you an immeasurable amount of time.  Imagine having to manually feed each page of a 35-page document: having to load each individual sheet of paper, wait for it to complete scanning, load the next page, and then let the scanner know that you’re ready for it to continue scanning on the computer interface.

Instead, you could just place the stack of pages into the loader, and hit “Scan.”  The document is automatically saved to the preset folder, and there’s no need to monitor the machine while it scans your lengthy document.

And using automated processes with your scanner is a big reason why its having wireless connectivity is so important is so that you can automatically have the scanned document sent to wherever you need it to be.

You can have it sent to your file server; you can have it sent to your wireless device while you’re meeting with a client; you can even have it emailed to you or someone else in your firm automatically (if your scanner has that ability).  Doesn’t that sound better than having to connect your scanner to a computer through a cable, and needing to access the scanned file from that system before it can reach anyone else’s eyes?

Next is arguably one of the most important features that a scanner should have in a paperless law practice: OCR.

OCR is a special function that allows your scanner to recognize text in the images that it scans.  This functionality allows the scanner to create searchable PDFs from the documents that it scans – which is important since an ever increasing number of courts will only accept searchable PDFs as electronic filings.  Of course, scanning a document with OCR also allows you to perform text searches the document within the document itself.

But OCR also offers another practical use for your firm: modifying scanned documents.  Most scanners that offer OCR functionality also allow users to save scanned documents into formats such as Microsoft Word and rich text format, which allows you to make changes to the document even if you never had the original computer file.

The last two recommended functions – the abilities to scan in color and at 300 dpi – fill a similar role.

First, being able to scan in color preserves important information about certain documents that you’ve scanned – such as the different color ink used on the signatures on the document.  Most of the time, it’s perfectly acceptable to scan in black and white or grayscale.  But there are certainly instances where it’s the more prudent choice to preserve color information on the document that you’re scanning, and it’s necessary to have a scanner that can capture that information in those circumstances.

Similarly, because you should scan all of your documents in at least 300 dpi quality, your scanner should be able to scan at 300 dpi.

The dpi of a scan is essentially its resolution; the higher the dpi, the better the resolution.  Lower dpi settings can make your scanned file appear grainy and blurry, which will be very apparent if and when you print out the scans on a later date.

And if you’re going to do away with the paper copies, shouldn’t the electronic version be as high of quality or better than what you just shredded?