Not Wired to go Paperless?

Is it possible we’re not wired to run a paperless law office?

There is no doubt that digital archiving is the way to go.  Done right, scanning closed client files is both convenient and cost effective.  But does it automatically follow that lawyers should adopt a completely paperless work flow for active files?

Goldy has a longer attention span than you

We already know that the lowly goldfish has a longer attention span than humans thanks to our increasingly digital lifestyle.  What about processing data?  Is our ability to absorb and retain information equivalent in the digital and paper worlds?  What does the science say?

This is your brain on paper [and it works better]

Evidence suggests that absorption, understanding, and retention suffer when we attempt to digest information digitally:

Consider this excerpt from Ferris Jabr, The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science of Paper versus ScreensScientific American [2013].

Even so, evidence from laboratory experiments, polls and consumer reports indicates that modern screens and e-readers fail to adequately recreate certain tactile experiences of reading on paper that many people miss and, more importantly, prevent people from navigating long texts in an intuitive and satisfying way. In turn, such navigational difficulties may subtly inhibit reading comprehension. Compared with paper, screens may also drain more of our mental resources while we are reading and make it a little harder to remember what we read when we are done. A parallel line of research focuses on people’s attitudes toward different kinds of media. Whether they realize it or not, many people approach computers and tablets with a state of mind less conducive to learning than the one they bring to paper.

If you are still with me: what does this mean for you and your law practice?

If you’ve gone completely paperless – accessing, reading, and digesting information digitally – and feel you are getting good results, why not continue?  You likely made some adaptations along the way that were perfectly natural and work well for you.  Keep up the good work!

For everyone else, the most optimal approach seems to be the following:

  1. Go paperless at the end of a file’s life cycle.  Scan your file.  Return original client documents.  Shred the paper file OR provide it to the client.  Only keep paper if required.  For a refresher on that subject, review our File Retention & Destruction Guidelines, available on the PLF website.
  2. During the course of a case, use paper whenever it works best for you: notes, correspondence, paper-based discovery, materials received from the client.
  3. Strive to keep information that you create or receive digitally in digital form (pleading documents, memos, emails).
  4. Whenever you need to print digital information for review and markup, don’t hesitate to do so.

[All Rights Reserved 2015 Beverly Michaelis]

 

Multi-tasking is a Myth

Four years ago I was inspired to write Attention Divided: Avoid Multi-Tasking.  multi

In that post, I shared the following:

My name is Beverly and I’m a recovering multi-tasker.  Like others of my ilk, I used to take pride in my juggling skills.  I believed that tackling two or three tasks simultaneously was a sign of efficiency.  Boy, was I wrong!

The truth is we just aren’t wired for multi-tasking.  Research shows that when we attempt to switch our attention back and forth we take 50% longer to finish a task and make up to 50% more errors. In the worst case scenario, multi-tasking can literally cost us our lives or at a minimum, our dignity.

I encouraged lawyers to stop the insanity and suggested 8 specific action steps to resist multi-tasking:

  • Control distractions – like the annoying pop-up: “You’ve Got Mail!” or push notifications on your smartphone or mobile device.  In fact, turn your smartphone OFF occasionally.
  • Give yourself a break from social media and the Internet.
  • Set boundaries for reading and responding to e-mail and texts.
  • Schedule a specific time each day to make and return phone calls.
  • Advise clients of your business practices – office hours, availability by phone, ability to accommodate unscheduled appointments.
  • Embrace “single tasking.”
  • Ditch the guilt.  Much of the reason we feel compelled to multi-task is because we believe it is expected of us.
  • Respect each other’s time whenever possible.  “Do You Have a Minute?” almost always translates into a much longer interruption.

In this month’s issue of the Oregon State Bar Bulletin, I was thrilled to see Elizabeth Ruiz Frost’s article “Mental Shrinkage: The Many Costs of Multitasking.”  I couldn’t agree more with the title and the points made in Frost’s article.  If you haven’t read this month’s issue of the Bulletin, I urge you to do so.  Take a few minutes to read Frost’s article and ask yourself: is this me?  Do I see myself in these scenarios?  If the answer is yes, consider implementing the 8 point plan above.

All Rights Reserved 2015 Beverly Michaelis