A small Southern California Firm engaged Epiq to help convert them to a working environment that is substantially less dependent on paper. Epiq engaged their team of Records & Information Management (RIM) and Information Governance (IG) subject matter experts (SMEs) that includes Certified Records Managers (CRM) and Certified Information Governance Professionals (IGP). Epiq SMEs have over 80 years of combined experience both as consultants providing strategic advisory services, and as actual RIM/IG practitioners who have supported Firm’s migration from paper based to electronic records management.
In the design and implementation of the “less” paper initiative and transition to electronic records management, it was most effective to first address the future state and work backwards. Transition to this future state consisted of two primary tasks: policy/procedure development and training/education. Several items pertaining to policy and procedure were agreed upon prior to implementation. As with all aspects of this initiative, end user input was critical to success, and therefore these policy items had to be carefully considered:
- Official file - The Firm established the electronic file as the “official” file, and after filed in the DMS (the official repository), all printed copies are considered transitory and treated as such, unless explicitly exempt by policy.
- Minimizing printing - Because it is not feasible to prevent all printing, it was most effective to have a dialogue with end users on what gets printed and why, and discuss how much of this printing could be eliminated by changing workflows or work habits. These conversations stressed the point that when documents come into the Firm electronically, they were saved and profiled in the DMS, and documents received in hard copy were scanned and destroyed, with exceptions as set out in Firm policy (wet signatures, originals, etc).
- Naming conventions – Because uniformity and widespread access was an objective of this initiative, a standard naming convention for electronic documents was established by practice area and administrative department.
- Document types – The list of available document types in the DMS was revised to be broad enough to accommodate all practice groups, but general enough that the list was navigable and users do not default everything to a “miscellaneous” or “general” type.
- Folder types – End-users’ comfort with working in an electronic environment often required that the electronic environment mirror the familiar world of paper in “Redwelds” as much as possible, particularly for tenured attorneys. To this end, establishment of standard folder types for each matter in the DMS was essential.
- Document Management System (DMS) - The future state of “less” paper centered largely on broad adoption and utilization of the Firm’s DMS. Achieving a high adoption and utilization rate required collaboration with IT personnel on several application features as well as individualized training for end users.
As mentioned, end user input was critical to the success of the “less” paper transition and as such, Epiq SME’s recommended that the firm work closely with end users to identify any additional training needs and/or questions specific to using the Firm’s DMS. Many of the practices that made up the future state workflow were not currently in practice simply because end users lacked training and education. Finally, change management was a critical component of this project. To aid in this, collaboration with and receipt of feedback from end users was of vital importance. Because they are the ones utilizing the future state workflow and functioning in the electronic environment, their input and feedback was critical every step of the way.
Epiq continues to be a trusted advisor for the Firm’s electronic records management initiative. Key success factors that were critical for success included buy-in from upper management, the proper software in place, and an IT department committed to developing and delivering the training necessary for end users to function in an electronic environment.