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Don’t go looking around for the fax machine in Michael D. Day’s law office. The Meriden, Conn., solo forked out a couple hundred bucks for one of those fancy Hewlett-Packard models and barely had taken it out of the box when he decided to go “paperless.” That was six months ago, and Day has no regrets. “I just had too much paper coming in… . It didn’t seem terribly efficient,” he said. Nearly out of space, and sick of filing — or, worse yet, trying to quickly get his hands on clients’ documents when they called out of the blue — Day went out and invested about $1,300 in the necessary software (Adobe Acrobat 6.0 Standard, Time Matters 6.0) and a scanner (a Fujitsu fi-4220C image scanner with a flatbed and an automatic document feeder). He also signed up for eFax, through which he sends and receives faxes though his Dell Latitude D610 laptop computer. (His monthly eFax charge varies depending on use, but averages out to be between $20 and $30, Day guessed.) Now faxes come in as Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) files and can be effortlessly e-mailed to clients or opposing counsel and catalogued by client or any other grouping Day wants to organize it by. The constant loading of paper, the changing of the toner cartridge in his old fax machine: they’re now just a bad memory, as are the frustrating searches through file cabinets. “All I have to do is look at my desktop … and every single document is there,” Day said. The best feature, however, is that all of Day’s files travel with him when he takes his computer out of its docking station. Day makes a living litigating divorce cases and some criminal cases, too, around the state. He spends a lot more time outside the office than in it. For solos in particular, one of their worst nightmares is being holed up in a distant courthouse during a long recess and left to twiddle their thumbs. No one’s back at the office generating income. That’s not a problem for Day. He has access to all his files and uses SnapperMail to download e-mail on to his PalmOne Treo 600. Sitting in a courthouse hallway, he said, is “no longer a waste of the day.” His clients, Day added, haven’t suffered a single moment of inconvenience through the whole upgrade. In fact, Day even kept his old fax number. (He has incoming faxes call-forwarded to his eFax number.) Day’s office will never be entirely paperless; he still keeps the originals of signed financial affidavits and other important notarized documents. But for pleadings and letters, which make up the vast bulk of his files, he’s concluded, “there is really no need to have a hard copy of those documents.” “One of the biggest fears of a paper office,” Day said, “is that all of your paper is in office,” at risk of being lost or destroyed in a fire. It’s a fear he has rid himself of by having all of his files stored electronically on his computer, as well as on back-up systems back at the office. Middletown, Conn., solo Anthony R. Minchella, who heads up the Connecticut Bar Association’s newly revived section for solo and small-firm lawyers, plans to follow Day’s lead ASAP. In addition to being able to save roughly $150 a month on postage and another similar amount on offsite storage and retrieval costs, Minchella is convinced going paperless is one of the most effective ways for solos and small firms to wrangle against firms with sizeable support staffs. “It levels the playing field a little bit,” he said. Day’s not sure that, when factoring in the price of new technology and eFax service charges, running his office is any cheaper than it was before. “I’m not certain if there is a cost-savings at the end of the day,” he said. “It’s possible I’m spending more.” What he is certain of is the benefits it’s posed for his practice and could for his solo and small-firm sisters and brothers. “This is our edge. We can use technology to compete with the large firms.” As Day sees it, at large firms, technology upgrades have to be approved by one committee after the next, drastically slowing their ability to capitalize on new gadgets like his. Solos don’t have such constraints. Having access to any file, no matter where he is, with just a few computer clicks is a revolutionary advantage, he said: “Without this, I don’t think solos can effectively compete for larger cases against larger firms.” For Day, being able to do that is priceless.

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