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A More Secure Solution than Scan-to-Email: A Digital Mailroom Built for the New Normal

By Michael Herzog posted 06-07-2022 12:31


When the pandemic sent the workforce to home offices, most law firms quickly started scanning daily mail to email inboxes. Facilities management or mailroom staff went into the office and cobbled together a new work process to accommodate this method of delivery. For the purpose of this article, daily mail includes documents delivered by USPS, overnight services or local couriers.

 But email has proven to be a poor workflow management tool and perhaps more importantly, nearly impossible to govern. Email is also the weakest point of security and compliance in the lifecycle of matter documents and client information. 

 Clients pay attention to this.  Year over year, the ACC survey of Chief Legal Officers show that the governance and management of their information is a top concern keeping them awake at night. This highlights the peculiarity of law firms in that firms and lawyers exist to create documents for clients—but do not own them.  Clients do.  Like many owners, clients have many concerns about how others interact with their property, particularly stemming from cybersecurity and privacy needs. 

That is why 98% of law firms report owning a document management system (DMS), according to the most recent ILTA Technology Survey.  This is most the logical location for matter-related documents.

 A firm cannot create a process over data it does not know it has; cannot govern, cannot create and implement retention and destruction policies, cannot secure or lockdown unknown entities.  This means matters require centralized, digital file to be maintained and to include all client documents plus related email in order to govern the known.  Lawyers storing documents outside of that electronic file, expose the firm to multiple layers of risk—financial, ethical, regulatory and security risks. 

 Accordingly, law firms have invested heavily in document management systems (DMS) to store client information. The DMS has become the primary productivity and governance tool for firms to service clients and protect their information.

 If the last two years has taught us anything, it’s that our shift in operations to include a home workforce is not temporary. Therefore, law firms need something better than the patched together scan-to-email process established earlier this year.  

 Forced to use existing copier-based technology, law firms are jamming mission critical mail delivery through a system designed for casual use where scanning occurs one document at a time. Quality checks are non-existent, evidenced by the fact that scanned mail is still retained in makeshift filing boxes, or delivered to empty desks for later pickup and review.

 Legal documents arriving in daily mail should not be delivered via scan-to-email for these reasons:

 Scanned documents are stored in the email system, unmanaged. Sensitive client information delivered as attachments violates basic principles of information governance.

  • The email inbox is not a workflow tool and cannot be easily shared with other workers to manage the multi-step process of review, profiling and notification. And there is no way to monitor that every item was properly processed, or even reviewed.
  • Scanned images create larger documents that may violate attachment and/or Inbox size limitations. Not to mention bloated message stores that create headaches for IT managers.
  • Email messages are a key attack vector for phishing attempts while email attachments are a significant source of malware. Building a mission critical application on arguably the weakest link in the IT infrastructure would never be advised if starting from scratch.

 If the firm’s existing scanning system is not well suited to take on this important application, what does a modern, productive and secure mailroom operation look like?

 The modern mailroom is digital. Utilizing intelligent, asynchronous processes to enable current clerical operators to work productively and with minimal training scan, QC, and securely deliver daily mail as searchable PDFs to the firm’s DMS of choice, e.g. iManage or NetDocuments.

 Ideally, operators should not require user access to the DMS, nor should they need to learn complex profiling procedures. The solution must support batch processing yet still works with any multi-function copier. Firms will also need automated quality controls and a remote help desk to provide operational integrity.

 The good news is that a digital mailroom, run optimally, will routinely digitize the biggest remaining flow of inbound paper documents - daily mail. The better news is that longstanding paper-to-digital initiatives will now accelerate, without the pushback from attorneys who insist on paper files. A digital mailroom now becomes the driver towards a conclusive paper-to-digital transformation.