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In 2000, when Kirkpatrick & Lockhart decided to open a Bay Area branch, San Francisco office real estate was still in the throes of the dot.com frenzy. Even today, San Francisco commands some of the highest rents in the nation. In that context, we knew we had to set our sights on getting the most out of precious floor space. Kirkpatrick & Lockhart has about 700 lawyers, with offices in Boston, Dallas, Harrisburg, Pa., Los Angeles, Miami, Newark, New York, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. The firm represents or recently has performed projects for more than half of the Fortune 500, 21 of the 25 largest mutual fund complexes (or their investment managers), and 23 of the 25 largest U.S. bank holding companies or their affiliates. When we were contemplating the new office, the firm’s technology included Compaq computers, model dl360 with fiber attached Raid Array 4100. The operating environment was Windows-based, with Windows NT v.4.0 running SQL 7.0, and Windows 2000 installed on computers to enhance the integration with LegalKEY’s “Attorney Desktop Module.” PLANNING MEETINGS In January 2001, we began our move with a series of planning meetings. Almost immediately we focused on paper. The file cabinets and records center needed to store it all, we knew, would eat up a good portion of the floor plan. Our quick and dirty estimate was that approximately 1,000 linear feet of shelving would be needed to accommodate current and future attorney filing space needs — a file room of approximately 1,500 square feet. The office space we occupied had no single space of that size. Redesigning the space was not considered. We decided we would try to convert from an operation that stockpiled reams and reams of paper to one that stored scarcely any, resulting, we hoped, not only in saved space, but in lower overhead. With our clients’ and our own increased reliance on technology to conduct daily business, it was logical, as well as more efficient and economical, to store that work product electronically. The San Francisco branch, with no established information-management system, would provide the perfect opportunity to pilot a paperless office. But could we really do it? Time would tell. One of our first tasks was to create a workflow diagram that charted the lifecycle of a document. We then factored in variables for different areas of law and geographic regions. This was helpful, because it allowed us to see more clearly the benefits of reducing paper, as well as what we would need to do to make it happen. The process also helped us map out procedures and train staff. Secretaries, we decided, would be responsible for profiling individual documents as the first step in a workflow that would ultimately lead to imaged documents in electronic files. They would know the subtleties in each case and be more familiar with the practice styles of the attorneys involved. SELECTING TECHNOLOGY Once we had an idea of the process that would work for us, we needed to select the technology that would make it happen. The firm had already purchased the LegalKEY Enterprise Records Management System from LegalKEY Technologies Inc. in New York and was in the midst of a multiphased installation in our other domestic offices. LegalKEY, recently acquired by Hummingbird Ltd., has an ancillary software module for document imaging that integrates with Microsoft Outlook and provides desktop access for our attorneys. LegalKEY provides users with a three-level display of the electronic file structure. Icons are used to differentiate the type of file. There is a “Folder” (“catch-all”) file icon; an “Insert” (“sub-file”) icon, which is subordinate to the “Folder;” and a third icon to represent an imaged document. Used in combination, these icons can be structured to accommodate the specific electronic filing needs for any client-related activity. The software helps users visually scroll through the titles associated with the three-level hierarchy until the desired document image title is located. With a few clicks, they can display an exact image of the original paper document, navigate through the document image and, if necessary, print all or a portion of the document image. Users also can electronically transfer e-mail messages from a Microsoft Outlook e-mail box to a self-directed location in the electronic records file structure. PROCESSING DATA The next step was finding a way to get information into LegalKEY in the simplest way possible, without rekeying data. We choose integration software developed by Denver’s CaseShare Systems Inc. By May 2001, we had selected and purchased computer hardware, written our document imaging procedures, and developed our initial training materials. On June 1, we launched a pilot with three attorneys and their secretaries. We trained them on LegalKEY, which we found easy to explain and they found simple to understand and use. Secretaries were responsible for profiling information into LegalKEY, then records department staff scanned the documents. Attorneys could then use LegalKEY to access files via office computers or remotely. We continued to test and refine our procedures through September. Among the lessons we learned was that the transition was improved by using a three-level file hierarchy that closely resembled the firm’s paper file structure, using electronic file icons similar to our paper files. With testing complete, we launched electronic filing for the entire San Francisco office (29 attorneys, 12 secretaries and one records staff). We set Nov. 1, 2001 as the date after which all new case-related documents would be maintained in electronic form only. We would digitize cases brought into the office prior to that date as time and staff resources permitted. Initially, staff was stratified in its use of the system, with a third using it actively, a third moderately, and the rest only infrequently. This mirrored our experience of usage patterns for any new technology. As expected, the main deterrent was culture, not technology. Lawyers find comfort in paper. That is how they have traditionally practiced. Getting them to rely on electronic resources rather than paper required them to change their perspective. To encourage this, we demonstrated the system’s efficiency and ease of use, as well as the administrative support it could provide. It helped that the lawyers found LegalKEY simple to use, and that they could immediately begin experiencing the benefits of having fingertip access to files. We later added a module that allows us to install all or part of the electronic files on CD, giving an attorney access to complete case files even while away from the firm’s computer network. This, along with the system’s Outlook integration, has promoted its acceptance. We are now 16 months post-implementation, and while we are not yet 100 percent paperless, we have imaged approximately 13.5 GB of data — about 325,000 pages. The original paper documents from which these images were created now reside off-site at a document archiving facility, available for recall if necessary, but not filling our limited file cabinet space. We’ve initiated some small-scale document productions via our electronic-files-to-CD capability for our litigation practice group. Response from the recipients has been favorable. Office-space economics initially drove our conversion to electronic filing, but we realized other benefits: • Files are accessible instantly and globally, no matter where staff is located. All attorneys working on the same case have immediate access to the same files without making extra copies. • We have reduced enormously time spent searching for documents in files. The system’s instant search capability helps us locate materials quickly. • We have case files complete in a single location and uniform format, improving case management and reducing potential liabilities associated with document management and retention. • We can better meet the needs and expectations of our technologically sophisticated clients. • The streamlined process requires fewer records staff to manage. This is possible only because users and the records department now share responsibility for file management. Users provide the documents that go into the system, and the records staff provides the consistency and conformity needed to be effective. With our success in San Francisco, we plan to next focus on our New York and Pittsburgh offices. To do that, we have compared the imaging practices currently used in San Francisco with the established “hard copy” filing procedures that exist in the other offices. We will be offering imaging and gradually phase its introduction into the daily workflow. Considering we will need to maintain our current paper document operating procedures during this rollout, reducing paper will take some time in our other offices. But we are excited about the advances we have made and are confident that each of our offices will eventually be imaging documents on a daily basis. Eddie McDaniel, [email protected], is firmwide director of records management, based in K&L’s Pittsburgh office. Jerome Napoli, [email protected], is the San Francisco office’s records coordinator. Web: www.kl.com.

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