#003: Ernie the Attorney on “Paperless Chase” [Podcast]

Craig  talks with Ernie the Attorney on the benefits of firms going paperless and how to get there.

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Welcome to
Legal Leaders Podcast – The show by and for Legal administrators, IT directors
and other Law Firm leaders, today’s leaders on today’s topics.

Craig:  I am your host, Craig Huggart of
alawfirmtrainer.com and this is Episode 3, Ernie the Attorney on Paperless
. Ernie
describes himself as a serial blogger. I have been reading blogs for several
years now and the first legal blog I remember reading was, Ernie the Attorney. Now Ernie has several blogs including PDF for lawyers,
one hour blog and Paperless Chase. So Ernie how are you doing today?

Ernie:   I am doing great Craig. It’s great to be here
and great to talk to you.

Craig:  Well, excellent. Before we get into today’s
topic I wanted to let everyone know following the topic we have two short
features Law firm Lass and Today’s Tech Tip.
So Ernie, tell me more about Paperless Chase.

Ernie:   Well, that is my main company now that helps
with get rid of paper, stop pushing paper and learn how to practice smart way
which is the efficient way using technology. So, I started a couple years ago
with another attorney friend of mine and we looked at big firms and then went
out and found that if you use technology properly the so small firm lawyers,
you can do as good a job and sometimes even a better job than law firms focused
to in big firms.

Craig:  It’s funny that you mention that because I was
thinking I have been in the law firm world working out a dozen years now and
the only attorney besides you that I know of that is paperless; truly paperless
is a solo practitioner. Why do you think it is difficult for other attorneys in
particular the big law folks to embrace the paperless way if you will?

Ernie:   Well, I think that, it’s getting the right
technology, it’s not that hard. And I could tell somebody here is the scanner;
here is what you should use to get PDFs. That’s the easy part. The hard part is
the human factor which is worrying how to get rid of paper, something that you
are familiar with and replace it with something that you are not as familiar
with and you don’t feel comfortable with. It’s a lot easier if one person is
making a change or two people. But if it is a larger organization you have to
make that change kind of at the same time across the organization, that’s just,
becomes very difficult to do. So, I think that’s the main reason really that
large organizations struggle with that. But small law firms are much more able
to implement it.

Craig:  Well, I couldn’t agree more. It always seems
like it comes down to human factor. And as you will know getting a bunch of
attorneys to agree on pretty much anything can be difficult.

Ernie:   Yes, absolutely. Yes, that’s true.

Craig:  I was going to ask you when you are helping
individual attorneys or firms make the transition to paperless, what concerns
do they bring up? Not maybe, necessarily the technology wise but you mentioned
the human factor. What are their concerns?

Ernie:   I think it’s a bunch of different things. The
common things are; how do I start? Do I try to do everything at once? If I am
going to put things in the cloud make them available in the cloud, is the cloud
secure? You know, a couple of different questions but these are all things that
are easy to deal with if you help a lot of people to make this transition
possible. It’s really not that hard, it’s just that papers are so familiar
exactly what it produces and we don’t have to say I don’t have to start a page
between these two pages, how do I rotate this page or how do I take some pages
out and copy it. We know how to do it with paper and when all of a sudden you
are giving that up and replacing it with something else human beings become
very uncomfortable, uncertain and they feel like they have made a fool. It’s
just that’s the humpy that you have get people over with but it’s not that hard
really, and the other thing about going paperless and this is true that once
you have made the transition, it’s not that hard. There is not one person that
I have met who says – you know, this paperless thing is not really for me. I am
going back to paper. Like nobody does that because once you get away from it
you realize how inefficient it is. It’s sort of like being in a bad
relationship. I think a lot times in a bad relationship you can’t think, It’s
not that bad and then you break up and you are on your own. Then you are like,
wow I was really miserable. And I think that’s the experience that people have
when they get away from paper. They realize how inefficient it was.

Craig:  Boy, I can definitely see that. You know I am
in Birmingham, Alabama and if I am downtown working and I see, you know they
are attorneys because they are lugging these big briefcases, so these big red
ones and here they are in a well suit in the summer in Birmingham with armloads
of paper. And I am just like wow! I think I would have me an iPad.

Ernie:   Yeah, that’s the thing. It’s inefficient and
it limits your options. It adds to the stress of your life unless you are
working out and lifting large boxes to help develop your quadriceps or biceps
or whatever. Nobody wants to really carry around a lot of extra paper, nobody
wants to figure out how to copy it and transmit it. So, once it is digital, it
makes your life easier. It gives you more options. You can work from a coffee
shop, you can work from you know the rich colt in Puerto Rico if you like to.
You have options that you don’t have when you are dealing with paper.

Craig:  Yeah, one thing that comes to find for me is
just the ability to search, wow what an advantage.

Ernie:   That’s huge and that was really the eye opener
for me when I first started becoming digital a friend of mine had a [06:24]
company. He was starting on that in early 2000 and he said I will scan some
documents for you, just so you can see what it’s like and I think you will
really appreciate this. So he did that for free and I started combing through
documents and then I realized I needed to look up something and I didn’t know
where in the documents it would be. He said to me you can use this search here
and you can find it. I said, wait a second, you mean I can just search for
things in this pile of paper that is digitized. And he is like yeah, this is how
it works. I am like, okay. I get it. This is way better.

Craig:  Yeah, I think that alone is enough of a reason
to make the switch. You know, one thing that I was thinking about as we were
talking here is let’s say I am an attorney. I get everything digitized. I am in
court and I have my iPad. And then the iPad breaks. And do you advise people to
have multiple devices or somehow have a backup if they are going to court or
how do that work?

Ernie:   [07:27] that’s how I work. And once I realized
that I was going to have a retained digital format and of course it’s backed
up, of course it’s available in the cloud. You know just add it to dropbox or
box.net or netbox you know whichever one you use you have a backup in the
cloud. But what exactly you said is a problem. What if you are in court and
your device doesn’t work? Well, I should have another device and I should reach
out and pick up the other one and the other one has identical information in
the same way like a mirror image of the information stored. I mean of course
you would want that and that’s what I do. I have my computer set up so that
they look exactly the same, my laptops. Well if your device gets spontaneously
on flames, I would not start freaking out I would just get the backup and keep working.
And that what you really need to do if you are going to rely on digital
information. But you know the cost savings for not using the paper allows you
to spend that money. A lot of lawyers say I don’t want to buy another computer,
that’s going to cost me more money. It’s not if you consider how much money you
are going to save on having to carry around boxes and buy file cabinets and
store things.  It is actually a cost
saving to switch to digital.

Craig:  Well, I could definitely see that. One last question,
how can legal administrators and IT directors encourage their firm to go

Ernie:   Well I think the trick and I started doing it
when I was in a big firm is to understand the challenges trying to get people
onboard and I think the trick is one or two people have to try it first. I
think trying to get everybody to do it at once is going to be more difficult,
it’s going to result in more pushback and it’s going to result in more agony.
The truth is to make people aware of the benefits by letting them see other
people that are doing it. So the truth is you go find somebody who is willing
to do it and there is always some people who are more willing you know, eager
in the firm [09:35] and you get them set up and when the other lawyers, paralegals
and staff see how efficient they are they will feel left out. And they will
think, I want what that person has. So you have to kind of do it in Johnny
Apple Feed fashion because you can’t be a dictator and force them to agree with
you because it’s just going to make it harder. You want the cow to go
willingly. You don’t have to drag the cow to the barn and the resistance is
harder to overcome.

Craig:  For sure, that sounds like a great strategy.
Anything else that you would like to add on this topic now?

Ernie:   Nothing I can think of. I guess the only thing
that I would mention is that PDFs are obviously the core components of being
paperless and so, I started working on a book that is ABA which is going to
come out on the fall called Acrobat in one hour for Lawyers in which I have
pretty much put every piece of information I know about how to use PDFs and
paperless law practice. So, that should be coming out at the end of the year.

Craig:  Excellent, from what I know you are the go to
guy for the attorneys as far as PDF, so I look forward to that.

Ernie:   Yeah, thank you.

Craig:  Very good and now for Law firm Lass. Ernie you
have a story to tell us about the newsletter.

Ernie:   Yeah. It is just one of those stories I think
about a lot because having started a self-blog and being a serial blogger as we
talked earlier. The reason I went in to blogging was it was so easy to do, it
was cheap and it costs nothing. And yet you know people are reading your stuff
because they publish an email and you always have an active engagement. I
always laugh about the time I was in my firm, way before blogging, on the
newsletter committee and our job was to put out a newsletter four times a year.
We really worked hard, you know we would check it, copy it and we spent a lot
of time on some of these things. And then it would cost us a lot of money to
mail it out to our clients. And we never really knew if they were receiving and
what’s going on. One time we sent a survey and nobody responded and we thought
well you know, I am sure they are reading it but they just don’t answer it. So,
one day the file room manager quit or retired and somebody went back into the
copy role because you know she was in charge of things. And found like 2 years’
worth of newsletters that have never been mailed out. So it was good example of
how when you are sending out paper by mail, you generally don’t know if they
are actually reading it. Whereas on the web using social media tools not only
that it’s free and easy but you would have a pretty good sense that people are
engaged or not engaged with what you are doing. I kind of laugh when I think of
those days and how much effort that we put into that. And all that stuff sat in
that room and never went out.

Craig:  Wow, what a story. I mean that’s a funny story
but I would think it would really be disheartening to think of all of the
effort that went in and those just never went anywhere.

Ernie:   Well, it’s all funny now after years.

Craig:  Well in contrast to that I had a thought on my
mind; I opened up my laptop, blogged about it and BOOM! It’s out there. Just
what a different world.

Ernie:   It really is. So we all have to get out there
and take advantage of it.

Craig:  Absolutely. Thank you for that. I want to move
in into today’s tech tip. In today’s tech tip I want to talk about an app
called mailbox.
And I really have a passion for email management and as I travel around the
country one of the biggest pain points especially among attorneys is email
because we just get such a flood of it. And I have discovered an app and I will
tell you right up front right now it’s limited to iOS, so that’s your iPhone or
iPad and it is limited to Gmail.  On the
other hand it has been bought I believe for a hundred million dollars by
dropbox. And if you are familiar with dropbox, dropbox is virtually everywhere
and I expect this app will be as well. But I will tell you I love it so much,
when I am sitting in my chair and I am working on my right I have a Windows7
laptop with a big huge keyboard. On my left I have an iPad. When I go to check
my email even if my laptop is in my lap I will stop to use my iPad so I can use
mailbox. Just a brief way of how it works, it works by swiping either left or
right. When you swipe left you get a pop up that says when would you like to
see this again? And there are things like tomorrow, next week or whatever. If
you swipe further to your left you can add it to your list. Like for me I have
a list that says Taxes 2013. When you swipe to the right you archive it or you
swipe all the way to the right to delete it. So, I can’t recommend an app for
email any higher than mailbox. So check out mailbox, I think you will
definitely enjoy it.

Ernie:   I totally agree. That’s one of the four apps
that I put at the bottom of my phone and I use it exactly the way you do. I use
it to triage all my email very quickly and it is awesome.

Craig:  I mean it shocks me how much more efficient. I
mean when I pull up my email on my laptop now I am just like I don’t want to do
with it. I just don’t want to do it. I just want to do it with my iPad. Well, I
am glad that you like that too. I wanted to let everybody know that the things
that we talk about will be in the show notes. So, I have link to Ernie’s about
me page. I mean the reality is if you want to find out about Ernie just Google
him. He has taken up a lot of Google space. Ernie I know you have a lot going
now, anything in particular that you would like to mention to the audience
right now?

Ernie:   I mean the main thing is for those folks who
do want to be paperless, since we talked about that pretty much, if you all go
to paperlesschase.com site I now have an email step by step tie that people
could find out for themselves free. And first couple of steps about how you go
paperless from there and a bunch of resources that you don’t have to worry
about. Once you go and sign up you get emails telling you here is the next
thing you need to know. So it makes easier for people to go paperless.

Craig:  That sounds great, excellent. And I wanted to
mention if you are listening to this podcast you will probably be a candidate
to be the guest on the show or you may know of someone that you would like for
me to interview. So if that is the case, in either case just use the contact
form on our website legalleaderspodcast.com and also speaking of that site, I
will post this podcast and if you would like a copy of Ernie’s book Blogging in
one hour for Lawyers leave a comment in the show note and I will pick one
person’s name at random and I will give them a copy.

Ernie:   Cool.

Craig:  So thanks so much for your time Ernie, it has
been fun.

Ernie:   Same here, I enjoyed it and I look forward to
seeing your podcast come out in the near future.

Craig:  Sounds great. Well that’s the wrap for episode

Thanks for
listening to this episode of legal leader’s podcast. For your law firm’s
training and consulting needs please visit alawfirmtrainer.com



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