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A lawyer holding his head while sat at a desk in an office, surrounded by piles of folders and documents

What can businesses learn about secure document management from the legal sector?

The concept of digital transformation has long loomed over UK SMBs, with the threat of ‘falling behind’ levelled at those organisations who don’t adapt and adopt new digital processes to keep pace with the evolving business landscape.

Professional firms, particularly in the legal sector, have sometimes been labelled sluggish – unable to adapt to newer technology, bogged down with legacy processes and dated IT infrastructure.

One of the biggest factors hindering modernised working practices in this sector has been their traditional reliance on physical paper documents and manual filling processes.

However, over the past two years, legal firms have moved decisively in the face of adversity and are increasingly looking to technological solutions to improve their ways of working. According to a 2021 report from Oxford University1, commissioned by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), the impact on the profession of the pandemic has been “extensive”. Firms have increased their use of technology ‘to manage or process work’ (51%), to interact with clients (48%) and attract new clients (26%).

So, looking at the comparable challenges law firms have faced what can SMBs learn about the solutions they’ve implemented to achieve more efficient, productive and effective ways of working?

Accessing documents anywhere

Picture a typical legal office (if you’re thinking of wigs and robes then have another go), piles of paper and case files compete for space on shelves and desks.

Being able to easily access that paperwork at any time is critical in ensuring that legal professionals can do their jobs effectively. Through enforced lockdowns and subsequent periods of working from home, guaranteeing that same level of access and by multiple team members became an industry priority.

At leading UK law firm, Weightmans, for example, its 1,200 people were forced to switch from office working to home working overnight. To tackle the unprecedented challenge and limit friction in new distributed working practices, it retained a skeleton office-based team to scan and digitise documents.

The process saw every paper document converted into a PDF file and stored in the practice’s case management system located on the server. This enabled the documents to be accessed easily by authorised employees from any location and provided continuity of service for clients.

Digitisation wasn’t just a quick-fix solution to a sudden problem that law firms faced; it is providing a longer-term opportunity to embrace genuine transformation with tangible benefits.

The networks created in response to the pandemic have significant longevity and allows for an archival system which can reliably call up information from any location with little time wasted on searching.

Tasks that once took back-office staff many hours of hard work, such as handling the paperwork for high volumes of lease agreements or trawling hundreds of volumes of case law for relevant precedents, can now be completed quickly, improving practices’ overall productivity and reducing time spent on admin and non-billable hours.

For SMBs the translatable benefits are easy to identify. Whether this is providing real-time access to hard copy documents for colleagues based off-site or just ensuring the systematic processing of information coming into the business, shifting towards the legal profession’s document digitisation approach can help keep information flowing, regardless of location.

Lady sat at a desk with a Brother scanner on the desk

Automated workflows for better document management

For law firms, digitisation that allows them to access files efficiently while working from home or the office, is just part of the equation. The vast majority of information being handled by legal practices is confidential, so security and accuracy within networks is of the highest priority.

Manual scanning processes create more room for human error – such as misplacing documents or sending them to the wrong person. These kinds of errors can be costly to a practice and even cause reputational damage. Automating scanning process and implementing Secure Document Management (SDM) is a vital solution, helping ensure digital documents end up in the correct location to ensure they never get into the wrong hands.

Solutions like Brother’s Barcode Utility are one of the first steps in the creation of a secure document management (SDM) process across a business. Empowering scanners to recognise the content on the page, and who it relates to – usually via a barcode of QR – this solution puts simple, intuitive and intelligent scanning at the fingertips of teams.

Once the marked document is scanned, it’s automatically filtered and sent to the intended recipient along a secure network, preventing interception and error.

Artificial intelligence also means that once these documents are scanned in and tagged, they become part of an automated workflow, being stored in the right archive or database, without requiring manual allocation.

This adaptation to the way businesses can transfer information is increasingly more sought after and offers untapped opportunity for many businesses for whom document transfer must be confidential, not just the legal and healthcare sectors.

Alongside confidentiality it also represents a pre-optimised approach to streamlining business, once the infrastructure is set up, modularity takes over, allowing for additional pathways to new points of contact to be added, scaling to the need of a business, no matter its size.

SDM delivers a twofold benefit to SMBs. It allows for flexible security in the form of accurate document transfer from any location which removes opportunities for human error and ensures the right party gets their hands on the right pages every time, preventing sensitive materials ending up on the wrong desk.

A lady and gentleman sat at a table looking at a laptop

What are the first steps to implement a secure document management solution?

Making any significant change to ways of working within a business can feel like a huge undertaking. What the legal sector has shown, however, is that while those changes may have been catalysed by the overnight seismic shift in how we work, they have continued to deliver clear long-term advantages.

That said, each business is unique in how it operates and that means developing a tailored solution that seamlessly integrates with a business’ existing infrastructure is essential.

By working with technology partners that can combine their expertise with a deeper understanding of an individual business, organisations can create a document management solution that works successfully for them.

Not only will an effective, secure scanning and document management solution ensure businesses can work more productively, it can provide the agility needed for a business to adapt to any way of working quickly and successfully, building long-term resilience.

To find out more about how Brother is supporting organisations transitioning to new ways of working, visit our hybrid working area.


Sources

1. https://www.sra.org.uk/sra/research-publications/technology-innovation-in-legal-services/

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