HOW GOING PAPERLESS ISN’T AS FAR FETCHED AS ONCE THOUGHT.
The legal profession has always been known (and at times frowned upon) for its reliance on hard-copy documents. Much of the paper that surrounds our daily lives seems unavoidable. For instance, how does one effect service by the traditional methods permitted under the CPR without printing off hard-copy documents? We are also slaves to our habits; we print off documents that we could simply read on screen, because it is “easier”, and we have “always done it that way”.
The COVID-19 lockdown across the UK has forced us to adapt in many different ways, from how we shop to how we socialise and, importantly, how we work. The team at Davis Woolfe has always been set up to work on an agile basis and so our experience of moving to working from home on a full-time basis was a smooth one. However, the one thing we are not set up to do from home is volume printing (and for many of us, any printing at all). This has forced us to adapt very quickly to paperless working, which is an approach one hopes we can maintain going forward.
Litigation is a profession steeped in tradition. Correspondence more often than not is sent by post as well as by email. Despite the availability of electronic bundling services for trials, the litigators among us will be all too familiar with the piles of court bundles that remain in our offices. Witness statements and exhibits are often compiled in hard copy, before being signed and scanned.
But 90% of the time, we do not need to do print any of these documents. There is a plethora of affordable software out there, which facilitates the compiling, pagination and indexing of court bundles. E-signatures on witness statements are widely accepted, and most correspondence can be dealt with by email (or attachments to email) alone. With the dawn of trials conducted by skype, soft-copy bundles have become the default option. “Hand-written” notes can be taken on tablets, and converted into soft-copy documents.
There will of course remain circumstances in which the use of hard-copy documents cannot be avoided. Such examples include documents that need to be sworn or witnessed, correspondence to persons without email addresses and, as indicated above, effecting service in the traditional methods. This should not prevent us from striving where possible to avoid the use of hard-copy documents.
We have always been encouraged to be mindful of our paper consumption, not least because we are obliged to consider the effect that it has on the environment. Perhaps after we have all been released from the lockdown, our time spent at home will not only have helped us to save lives, but also to save the future of our trees and the wider environment.
If you would like to discuss anything relating to this article, please contact Sara Roden at [email protected]