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A five-point guide to digitise an Advocate's office

The piece puts forward a 5 point guide to stand-alone law offices who seek to digitise their office.

Yogi

The COVID-19 lockdown has brought all human activity to a screeching halt. The legal sector has also been immensely affected. Everyone is apprehensive about attending office on a daily basis, even once the lockdown is lifted.

In such a scenario, office digitisation has gained traction.

While law firms have enough resources to commission professionals to perform this task, stand-alone law offices are perplexed with the situation.

This post is a five-point guide to stand-alone law offices who seek to digitise their office (along with possible costs).

1. Implement CPBH

Reading a PDF file for one time reference is different from continuously working on PDF case files on a daily basis. There are several functional differences between a physical file and a raw scanned PDF of the same file (For example, difference in running pagination).

Long term digitisation can only be achieved by eliminating these differences. These differences can be eliminated by performing CPBH after scanning (which stands for Cleaning, Page-labelling, Bookmarking and Hyperlinking).

Please note that all four methods of CPBH need not be performed on all documents. CPBH is only an acronym to commonly denote all four methods.

2. Procure a Scanner

Gone are the days when scanners were considered a luxury item in an advocate's office; scanners are now a necessity. No serious digitisation can be achieved without a decent scanner in your office. Keep note of the following features while procuring a scanner:

  1. It should have an Automatic Document Feeder (ADF).

  2. The scanner should have a reasonable scanning speed (minimum of 20 to 25 pages per minute).

  3. It should be able to perform two-side scanning.

  4. The scanner should be built for daily heavy use.

Good stand-alone scanners with these features cost around Rs. 25,000 to 35,000.

If you are concerned about the capital cost to buy a scanner at once, I suggest you explore renting. There are several organisations that rent heavy duty photocopying-cum-scanning machines (which cost around Rs. 1,25,000/- to Rs.1,50,000 if you wish to purchase them).

The average rent for these machines ranges between Rs. 3,500 to Rs.4,000 per month (in Delhi). The rent also includes full maintenance and cartridge cost. Also Included is 10,000 pages printing/photocopying per month (averaging to Rs. 0.35 paise per page).

Thus, the overall cost of in-house printing/photocopying will be around Rs. 0.75 paise per page, which will still work out to be cheaper than the minimum market cost of printing/photocopying.

Most importantly, you get unlimited scanning to enable you to fully digitise your office.

3. Invest in a good PDF editing software

PDFs will become the new normal in everyday office routine. As a word processor (like Microsoft Word) was required during migration from typewriters to computers, a good PDF editing software is mandatory to run a digital office.

A good PDF editing software enables you to perform multiple functions on all aspects related to PDFs, including the mandatory CPBH.

The most widely used PDF editing software is 'Adobe Acrobat DC' (not be be confused with the free 'Adobe Acrobat Viewer'). Adobe Acrobat DC costs around Rs. 1,350 per month (including taxes).

Considering it is a recurring monthly payment, the cost might sound steep for a single software. But, apart from CPBH, 'Adobe Acrobat DC' has the capability to fully digitise all traditional clerical procedures performed in an advocate's office.

If you are concerned about the price, there are several low cost alternatives, including ones with a one-time purchase option.

4. Subscribe to a cloud storage

Similar to the storage area for your physical files, you need a common digital storage for your electronic files, accessible to everyone in your office (unlike the personal storage on your computer).

The simplest option is to subscribe for a consumer cloud storage. The most commonly used cloud storage platforms are Dropbox, OneDrive and GoogleDrive. In my opinion, Dropbox offers a seamless experience in heavy use, compared to OneDrive and GoogleDrive.

The basic plan in DropBox is free (with a 2 GB limit).

5. Invest in a good table with a stylus (Optional)

Consider investing in a good tablet and stylus, offering a wholistic writing experience, to fully replace pen and paper. They offer the advantage of mobility, enabling you to work from any place with the same experience as that of your office desk.

There are many tablets in the market. The most commonly used ones are the Apple iPad Pro (along with Apple Pencil) and Microsoft Surface (along with its Pen). There are many android options as well. Each device has its advantages and disadvantages. Please select a tablet which suits your subjective requirement.

Good tablet computers, which offer writing experience without any lag, cost around Rs. 75,000 to Rs.1,00,000. However, note that it is not mandatory to purchase a tablet to operate a full digital office.

The author is a practicing advocate who operates a fully digital office. For advocates who wish to pursue office digitisation on a 'Do It Yourself' basis, he shares his methods on www.sanspaper.in.

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