DIGITISING YOUR ENTIRE OFFICE - THE INITIAL SETUP
Once you are comfortable with working on electronic files, as suggested in Office 1.0, you may be enthused to digitise all your case files. This process, of course, involves scanning your entire office, accompanied with the post scanning clerical procedures (CPBH) .
For most advocates, this task seems daunting. One is confronted with several questions like:
What parts of a file should be scanned and maintained on digital space?
Should I only scan the pleadings and documents or should I digitally store everything related to a matter?
Should i still maintain physical files?
Can my clerk handle the burden?
Is digitisation a fad or can it be sustained?
This post deals with some practical perspectives to overcome the above doubts.
THE HENCEFORTH APPROACH
As for any systemic change, digitisation cannot be achieved overnight. One should carefully moderate its scale after assessing several factors.
One method to successfully implement digitisation, without overwhelming your office, is by following 'the henceforth approach'. As the name suggests, while starting the process, only digitise the files from that point forward.
Once your office is comfortable with the digital processes, then slowly update old files, starting with the important ones.
Even if you have an established office and can afford to get all your files scanned at once, I strongly suggest you first implement CPBH on few case files, get comfortable with the process and then slowly scale-up.
It is better to start small and slowly increase the pace instead of spurting at once and eventually give up.
WHAT SHOULD BE SCANNED?
A common mistake everyone commits while starting a digital office is overdoing it. Apart from the main pleadings, documents and applications, you will generate the urge to store everything in the file's digital folder.
I fell in the same trap initially. I had mandated my clerk to store everything including service proofs, emails, correspondence, process-fee receipts, miscellaneous letters, etc in the digital file.
I eventually noticed that my clerk was so overwhelmed that he stopped separating grain from the chaff. Apart from cluttering the digital space, such maintenance also affected important files. In his confusion to scan miscellaneous documents on a given day, my clerk frequently erred in placing important file contents such as counter-affidavits, applications, etc in respective files.
That does not, however, mean that you should not digitally maintain miscellaneous and clerical documents related to a case. Practicing advocates are often confronted with service related questions during hearings, which can only be authoritatively answered by referring to these documents.
My advice is to merely limit these documents till your clerk becomes habituated to the whole process.
Read the post on numerical method for arranging folders/ files wherein I also dealt with the arrangement of clerical and miscellaneous documents related to a case file without cluttering important file contents.
SHOULD YOU DISCONTINUE THE MAINTENANCE OF PHYSICAL FILES AFTER DIGITISATION?
Please note that digitisation of case files is supplementary, not substitutional, at least for a long time after your start your journey towards digitisation. You should continue to maintain physical files till your entire office's digital work flow is well established.
However, you will notice that you will rarely use your physical files once you get comfortable with digital files, as your entire office is at your finger tips - quite literally - and can be accessed with a tap on your phone.
The quantity of printing will also be greatly reduced mostly limited to Court filings.
WHAT IF YOUR CLERK IS NOT CAPABLE OF HANDLING THE BURDEN?
I have suggested a strategy to remedy this in my post on sustaining your digital office after initial set-up. The method suggested in that post can also be applied during the initial setup.
Also read the post(s) on 5 point guide to digitise an advocate's office and Training your clerk to perform digital tasks