There have been lots of posts in the blogosphere about going paperless. Sam Glover over at the Lawyerist site, for example, is a big proponent of it. There are several reasons why this is a good idea, many of which are the economic savings on paper, copier toner, storage space, and postage. However, an incident at a law firm in my area recently points out another good reason to do it.
Their office is in a building that houses three law firms with a residential unit on the third floor. Over a weekend, the toilet in the third floor bathroom overflowed (for several hours unnoticed – whole other story). This resulted in the water flooding down through the bathroom below it on the second floor, and through to the conference room on the first floor. On the conference room table were several stacks of documents and files being worked on that suffered damage.
Luckily the firm had insurance that covered the cost of reconstructing the files. However, having electronic copies of those documents as a backup would have made things so much easier. Yes, all sorts of accidents can occur that can destroy electronic documents. However, those that go paperless have at least two redundant backups of their data, and at least one of those is off site. Physically making that many photocopies and storing them off site just would not be practical. Remember, going paperless does not mean having no paper at all; it means having less of it around. Scanners are cheap now, and every firm should have at least one (with a sheet feeder). If you are not scanning all important incoming documents, you should be. You never know when it will save you from disaster.