Do We Still Get Paper?

I once scoffed at the term the "paperless office" but I have lived to see eDiscovery transform from paper to electronic data.  I'm officially old.

When I first began my career in litigation support, everything was in paper.  It wasn't until about seven years ago that I started to see the ratio change toward more electronic data than paper.  Very rarely did I have to scan banker's boxes full of paper.

Paper is still out there.

So in this age of electronic data, how do you deal with paper coming in the door?

First, you need to sort through what you have and decide what needs to be converted to digital.  Unfortunately many hours of work have been wasted when the decision is made to "scan everything" without first culling through the paper to determine if the documents are important.  If you miss something you can always add it later.  There's really no need to scan every piece of paper.

My rule has always been to scan what you need and lock up the paper in case you need to go back to add something or re-scan something. 

What do you need to scan your paper?

Once you have determine what you want to scan, organize how you want to scan.  One way would be to use actual folders for the paper documents and create the same electronic folders.  This is a great way to keep track of what has/has not been scanned.  You don't want to start scanning paper randomly.

You also need a good scanner.  Most copiers today have a scanning feature.  The most popular digital format is to convert your paper documents to Adobe Acrobat PDF files.  While you can scan your own documents in-house, you can also outsource to a local vendor.  Don't try to scan hundreds of boxes of documents just to save money.  Consider outsourcing it.

Here are the top eight document preparation tips for scanning from :

  1. Right Device. Capture devices are available in a wide range of sizes and speeds – from a small, desktop personal scanner capable of 10 pages per minute to high-speed devices capable of thousands of pages per hour. You want a scanner fast enough to get the job done, with maybe a little capacity left over for peak times.
    a. Speed – Scanners can become pricy, so look for a “fast enough” device that won’t suck up more of your time than necessary.
    b. Format – if you need to scan a lot of insurance cards or photos or legal-sized documents, you want to be sure you have equipment that can handle those formats.
  2. ADF. The automatic document feeder is the tray on your device that will automatically “feed” documents into the scanner. You want to be sure it’s working! From 10s to hundreds of documents, drop them in and push the button. Unless you’re scanning fragile documents or books, you don’t want to feed documents in one at a time.
  3. Torn pages. Feeding a partially torn page into a scanner is like an 18-wheeler slamming the brakes on a rain-slick road – it’s probably going to jackknife. The last thing you want is for a document to tear, requiring you to open and extract the pieces (if you can even reach them). Take a few moments to tape torn pages. A little document preparation goes a long way. 
  4. Metal detector. Be sure to check for and remove all paper clips and staples. Either can cause damage to your scanning device and could require repair services. If your document was stapled, separate the pages – if not many times the pages will stick together.
  5. The shuffle. If the paper to be scanned is too “clean” it could more easily double-feed. Take your thumb and fan the edge of the stack like you would a deck of cards. This will create a little air and space between the documents and eliminate static electricity.
  6. Multi-feed/blank page detection. This isn’t really a document prep tip, but still helps productivity. Most scanners will detect a double feed or a blank page so that you can find that double-fed document and rescan it.
  7. “Batches . . . we do need stinking batches.”* Organize documents by file type so that you can save groups of documents to the same location more easily. In large volumes of documents to be scanned, you can also add batch separate sheets with barcodes for document scanning. Batches also allow you to more easily group and file paper documents.
  8. Clean up. In addition to the paper being ready, you’ll want to be sure the scanner is as well. At least once a month, clean the glass on the scanner to remove smudges, dirt, and any accumulated gunk from paper. If you scan frequently, clean more frequently.

If you don't want to dump a scanning project on your office staff and you don't want to outsource the job, you can also consider hiring a contractor to work in your office on the project.  

What to do about bates numbering?

Okay, the dilemma I always faced with attorneys have been the issue with bates numbering the documents.  The paper documents will not have bates numbers on them.  So how can you keep track of them so that they match.  This is why I suggest organizing your paper documents in folders.  You can group your documents so that you can make sure the paper has been scanned.  Once the paper has been scanned, you can easily apply bates numbers through Adobe Acrobat.  

If there is one thing I can leave with you about any scanning project is to PLAN before you scan.  Don't just start scanning paper without a plan on how you will organize it.  


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