Paperless Essentials for Lawyers

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 3.04.30 PMAre you feeling like you’ve got a life yet? No? Maybe? Well we have a treat for you today.

My recent guest, Ernie Svenson, was a practicing attorney in commercial litigation for a big law firm down in New Orleans. He was very adept at being a paperless lawyer, then after almost 2 decades became a solopreneur. The best news is he now trains lawyers, like us, to dramatically cut overhead, boost profits, and use tech savvy materials in order to combat not only big law firms (and their adversaries) but also to manage a solo and small law firm better. How great is that?!? Let’s dig in.

As usual, the objective here is to diagnose the issues affecting solo and small law firms and come up with remedies (or solutions) to these areas we struggle with in a simple, no nonsense way.

Ernie had found, back in 2000, it was much easier to run his practice more efficiently by becoming as paperless as possible. Here are some of the problem areas we diagnosed and the remedies he explained to me, to help you get to a better point in 2015.


  • The key is not to become obsessed with getting rid of all the paper.
  • Moving into, or acting too quickly without being as technically savvy as you think you are
  • Assuming a process is tailor-made to suite your needs
  • Determining what to keep and what to toss
  • Frustration and losing momentum or motivation to get it done
  • Look for inefficiencies


  • The key is to look at the paper you have and realize that most of it makes you inefficient, boxes you in and inhibits your flexibility.
  • If you sign up for Ernie’s free newsletter, it will walk you through the basics, give you resources, links, and more. Don’t expect too much too soon. Absorb all the information and/or hire an expert to give you help. Learn how to use PDF documents and Adobe Reader (see link below for Ernie’s book which shows you how to accomplish this). Take one step at a time.
  • Each law firm has it’s own way of doing business. Know what’s important for the system first and what is allowable in the courts. If everything else is just bulk paperwork, you have to ask yourself if it’s better to keep digitally or in hard copy.
  • Tossing things is not entirely recommended. The obvious things you CAN scan, but you must keep original promissory notes, wills, affidavits, and probably a whole lot of other things in a safe place. You may have guidelines within your jurisdiction that forbids digital formats, so you need to be aware of them before you toss anything. It’s just a good practice to scan everything anyway.
  • There are ways you can get yourself up to speed. I mentioned earlier hiring in temporary staff just for the purpose of scanning (if you can afford it) and get it all started. You don’t have to do it all yourself.
  • Inefficiencies happen all the time. Look at your paper output. Ask yourself, is a digital signature more efficient? If yes, then do it. Make sure your client engagement letter speaks to this need.

It’s a big deal to become more efficient, and Ernie made some great recommendations we can all learn from in some small way or another. He did mention, if a file is already closed, you obviously do not have to go that far back and scan it. It would be a waste of time efficiency. It’s also important when purchasing hardware (like a scanner), or software that it works for your office system (whether it’s a PC or Mac) because there are differences.

You can reach Ernie Svenson several ways: His website is,, via email at: or by texting “paperless” to 33444. Here is the link for his book “PDF Essentials for Lawyers

Well, I better let you get started with your research and getting help because eventually everything will be digital and then what? Are you ready?

This is a transcript of a recorded live presentation. It is in spoken-word format. While we have cleaned up the transcript a bit for easier reading, it is not in edited written-word format.

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