Andrew Monkhouse, Managing Partner and Founder of Monkhouse Law, recently shared the story of how his law office became recognized as one of the fastest growing firms in Canada. This achievement, he says, would not have been possible without their successful digital transformation efforts.
Read his article below, originally published in The Lawyer Daily, to learn how Ricoh Canada supported Monkhouse Law in becoming an “almost paperless office” and how we were able to alleviate the firm’s mundane, printing-based tasks so the team of seven could focus on what was most important: their clients.
If you think about paper in the absolute, who loves paper the most: cats, toddlers or lawyers?
For anyone who has cats, their love of paper is legendary: anytime you want to read a real newspaper or write an old-fashioned letter, cats will strategically position themselves right on your very page. Have a new kitten? Keep the bathroom door closed or you may find yourself in dire straits because the entire roll of toilet paper has been unfurled by your super-cute fuzz ball.
Toddlers love paper; it’s fun to rip up into a million pieces. Passes the time. Keeps little fingers busy. But as every parent knows, the present that comes in a box frequently pales in comparison to the box itself, especially when it is a big box from an appliance. Those can be turned into houses, ships, trains, airplanes and race cars. Add some construction paper and some crayons — and voila!
Which brings us to lawyers. I will posit that lawyers love paper the most. From motions, to factums, to statements of claim and all other types of legal documents, everything still has to be submitted as hard copies for court. Even with the newest e-filing system, you are asked to send in a paper copy afterwards! Lawyers may run around courtrooms with iPhones and iPads, but our legal system demands paper. Still.
There is an entire industry of serving documents where you pay someone to put the Statement of Claim in their very hands. And, lawyers are obliged to keep clients’ paper files in “bankers’ boxes” for potentially up to 15 years after the conclusion of a matter. Lawyers are constantly caught between the traditional world of paper and the demand to evolve their business to service clients more effectively.
This month, Monkhouse Law was recognized as one of the fastest growing firms in Canada — and the fastest growing law firm — by the Report on Business of the Globe and Mail. We could not have achieved that milestone without the successful implementation of our digital transformation efforts.
One of the biggest thorns in my side as a lawyer and the founder of Monkhouse Law, an employment law firm, was the preparation of briefing books for court. These have to be done with great care to ensure they are accurate, have to be indexed so you can find the germane document quickly while addressing judges, and a copy must also be provided to opposing counsel. Briefing books can range from 30 pages for a factum, to 100 pages for a mediation, to 300 to 400 pages for the average briefing book for a court appearance, such as a hearing.
And so I found myself at 11 p.m. on a Sunday in early March 2014. The snow was coming down heavily. It was me and a law clerk frantically printing, indexing and binding documents at the office for a Monday court appearance. It was me because even if I was the founder and managing lawyer, I couldn’t pass the buck to one of my associates. I didn’t have it in me; plus, it was my client.
That night, I grew to hate the Cerlox machine: both finicky and vicious, it was like fighting with a bad-tempered ferret. When we finished, there was rectangular Cerlox confetti all over the floor, but I was not feeling festive. And after this delightful adventure, I had to drive home in the snowstorm to my wife and toddler daughter.
I’m no efficiency expert, but this entire process struck me a colossal waste of time for our firm of seven people. I wanted to spend our time focused on our clients and helping them solve their employment law problems, not fight with paper late on Sunday nights. I started to investigate other options.
Our first attempt at streamlining was a local printing shop. Their process was that they could photocopy a second or third briefing book, but we would still have to produce the first one. So, they could give us some time savings. It was a start.
Our next inquiry was to Ricoh Canada 10 months later. They told us to send them all the files we need printed. They prepared the briefing books, including index tabs and binding. We can send the documents by e-mail or secure server from any computer and they give us two to four-hour turnaround on any job (rush service is two hours, plus a premium). To offer this kind of service, the Ricoh production facility is staffed 24/7.
Plus, they hand-deliver the printed documents at our office, which in downtown Toronto is no small feat, given that courier trucks routinely collect three or four parking tickets (badges of honour?) on their windshields in the downtown core on any given day.
I don’t worry about miscommunication or confidentiality of information; we have it covered through NDAs. Frankly, it’s often obvious that both sides are using Ricoh to copy their documents. They do enough legal work that we have even had them catch that we were using the wrong colour back page.
Outsourcing our legal printing to Ricoh has allowed us to be an almost paperless office. We only print what we need, mostly for court. We don’t even have a photocopier anymore. No machine to breakdown, run out of toner, have network or software issues.
The other piece of this paper reduction that made our lawyers’ lives so much easier was to move all our documents to the cloud. All incoming documents from clients and opposing counsel are scanned in as well. Our front desk has been tasked with filling out all names for incoming documents. We have our own naming protocol and all our documents are now fully searchable.
The other big benefit of outsourcing our legal printing is we actually save money; we pass along the savings to our clients, too. When I looked at how much we were paying law clerks to photocopy documents, I had a hard time justifying to clients as disbursements the amount of time spent photocopying.
About two months ago, we needed mammoth briefing books of 1,000 pages each. I sent off the order from home while sipping a hot chocolate. Four hours later, our briefing books arrived at our office, each copy comprised of three voluminous binders.
My biggest problem that night? I could not find any mini marshmallows.
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