Law firms were forced to develop new habits to handle work during the pandemic. Physical mail delivery is no exception. Some solutions were carefully thought out, but like many problems solved at the start of the ‘stay at home’ orders, many are still running in the same way as when they got cobbled together as an emergency response. Just for fun let’s take a look at some of the fire drill mail delivery routines we have come across that were hurriedly put in place.
Our point, of course, is to shed light on the fact that your law firm cannot keep operating in emergency response mode when it comes to processing mail. The daily mail is essential to a law firm because much of it is matter related and response times often have absolute due dates. For law firms operating with a distributed workforce, all those paper records arriving at the main office create bottlenecks that slow productivity and create other inefficiencies.
Multi-national Law Firm 1. Dropping scanned mail to a folder on the network – quick and dirty right? Well, those of us in IG have been battling unstructured file share repositories for years, yet here is another one! First there is no way to notify you when you specifically receive new mail, so all the employees in the firm have to be notified at once when the mail scanning work is completed. This means, you get notified via email every day, whether you have new mail that requires your attention, or not. Important mail gets processed out of these folders – maybe making it into the DMS where it ultimately belongs- and some legal assistants are good at doing duplicate file clean up, but it is basically a redundant repository accumulating matter related documents on a regular basis as it competes with the intended official repository for matter files in the document management system.
US AMLAW 200 Law Firm 2. This stuff is important! Let’s get executives involved. Everyone was safely sent to work at home or furloughed, but after several important client mailings and invoices were missed, something had to be done quickly. Emergency commandment: hire couriers to deliver the postal mail to the senior managers at home. Executives sorting firm mail in their kitchens! A new job skill for law firm executives. If the courier logistics were not enough, the sorted mail gets couriered again, or may be scanned at home. All of these operational gymnastics are just to achieve the simple, but essential, task of getting your firm’s postal mail to the intended recipient.
Yet Another Firm 3. Once a makeshift scan-to-email solution was in place, the attorneys complained 1) excess notifications filling up their precious email inbox with scans of items that mostly have already been received, 2) Delivering the physical mail after the scan to the practice area anyway – just in case. Great, so your legal assistants and partners are doing double work to sort the mail. Good luck accounting for all that in time and billings, 3) Attorneys and associates missed their ‘grey mail’ too. Though this was not business-critical correspondence, it meant that the practicing law person missed sign up dates for required continuing education events!
So, do you want to go through this again: being dependent on someone else to decide what mail is valuable and how quickly you need it, random, intermittent and duplicative ways to get it. You never intended for work-from-home to become the rule rather than the exception, but it’s 2021 so the time has come to start rationalizing the normal now. Otherwise, that postal mail of yours is a fire drill headed for becoming an absolute train wreck.
How do we resolve this? A safe, reliable, structured and scalable system must be settled on. This involves a top-down re-assessment of the daily mail operation in terms of the people, process and tools involved. Look for the smart solution. It is out there if you know where to look for it.