Paperless in The Cloud: A New Way for the Law Firm of Connolly & Shireman

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For Connolly & Shireman — a team of attorneys in Houston, Texas, specializing in family, juvenile and appellate law — the management of paper files had reached its tipping point.

The firm’s documents were primarily stored in file cabinets and overflowed into banker boxes as the cases grew over time. Digital documents were stored on a network server, which meant that attorneys could not easily access case files when they were in court or out of the office. The office was also in desperate need of more advanced IT support, and a more robust and efficient copier; and the thriving firm was just a few months away from a move to a new office in the Greenway Plaza district of Houston.

With so many balls in the air, the firm’s Office Administrator, Tona King, seized the opportunity to make a change. With the help of Function4, King turned the search for a new multifunctional copier into a complete overhaul of the Connolly & Shireman document management and business systems.

About the Client

Connolly & Shireman, LLP is a leading independent law firm in Houston, Texas specializing in several areas of family law – divorce, child custody, adoptions, collaborative law, juvenile delinquency, child protective services, probate and wills, and appellate law.

To learn more about Connolly & Shireman, visit connollyshireman.com

The Tipping Point in a Paper Environment

The partners at Connolly & Shireman were increasingly frustrated with the management of their client’s case files. While they could remote in to their office computers while in court, access was very slow, often unreliable and many times dependent on unsecured Wi-Fi.  As a result, the attorneys resorted to carrying loads of paper to court as backup.

“It was very cumbersome for the attorneys to carry boxes of files back and forth to the courthouse,” recalls King. “They really needed the ease of carrying a laptop or a tablet to court with access to their documents at their fingertips.”

TONA KING | OFFICE ADMINISTRATOR, CONNOLLY & SHIREMAN

Because the firm specializes in a variety of areas of family law, case information often overlaps. With no formal policy on file naming conventions, file folder structures were inconsistent and made document collaboration among attorneys difficult.

Email was another mounting issue, as each attorney had their own way of archiving emails with supporting case information.

The firm’s closed file retention policy created the need for additional physical space for storage. In fact, before the move, King says the sheer volume of closed files forced the firm to use a secure off-site storage facility dedicated exclusively to that cause.

“It was a nightmare. We were running out of space, and our attorneys needed cloud-based access. We knew we had to do something that would not only protect our client’s private information, but also be on the cutting edge of mobile access and disaster recovery,” says King.

In addition to access and storage issues, the firm’s third-party IT provider and lack of case document management software could not keep up with Connolly & Shireman’s growing demands.

When King started looking around for document management solutions, she realized that there were a lot of options on the market, but most were on the same scale as what they already had.

“Our existing case management software just wasn’t allowing us to do what we wanted to do,” remembers King, “and while it offered a new cloud-based option, it lacked the document management solution we so desperately needed.”

A New Way of Document Management

King turned to Function4 — a journey that began as just a discussion about a new multifunctional copier and evolved into a total office transformation.

Function4 began with a detailed discovery of the firm’s existing document structures and business requirements. They then worked with King to design a comprehensive hardware and software solution for the firm, including a new, high-volume multifunctional device, a dedicated server, and the completely paperless document management system, M-Files.

With case information in so many different places, Connolly & Shireman needed a solution like M-Files that focused more on “what” content was saved, not “where” it was saved. With M-Files running on each attorney’s device, data is accessed from the M-Files Vault at the server level as well as the cloud level.

Rather than storing documents in folders and subfolders on the computer, M-Files organizes every document within a searchable database that is indexed with user-defined tags, or metadata. Documents can later be quickly retrieved with a simple search.

“We knew we needed to modernize our systems and streamline our documents,” says King. “Our attorneys can now access case information and documents from anywhere: court, home or even out of town. We have gone from boxes upon boxes of paper files to minimal amounts of printed documentation.”

TONA KING | OFFICE ADMINISTRATOR, CONNOLLY & SHIREMAN

While most firms have transitioned to Microsoft Office products, Connolly & Shireman had a loyalty to WordPerfect® and did not want to make a change. Understanding this need, Function4 was able to customize M-Files, which is predominantly configured to work with Microsoft Word, so that all of the firm’s legacy documents and future WordPerfect® files were 100% compatible.

The solution works in conjunction with a Konica Minolta c368 color multifunctional printer / copier / fax device, which allows attorneys to scan and index paper files, even in bulk, right into M-Files. Upon scanning paper files, documents are converted to searchable text using optical character recognition (OCR), greatly reducing case filing time.

Knowing the firm’s new office would have limited storage space, King also made a plan to digitize all of their legacy files using the networked Konica Minolta c368 in preparation for the office move.

“We were looking for something that was multi-purpose and could handle high volume. The Konica Minolta worked right in with what we needed to do,” says King. “We are now able to use the Konica Minolta for our faxing needs, eliminating the old-time fax machine from our lives. Faxes are now received digitally directly on our workstations and are sent from the Konica Minolta. It’s also ideal for large print jobs and is less costly to use than the smaller local printers at our desks.”

A Trusted Partner in Function4

King attributes the success of the project to the team at Function4.

“With Function4, it wasn’t just like they walked in the door and sold us something. They took the time to understand our needs and requirements and they came up with a solution that really fit our needs, explaining everything,” remarks King. “I knew that kind of responsiveness was going to be paramount to our success with this system down the road.”

TONA KING | OFFICE ADMINISTRATOR, CONNOLLY & SHIREMAN

While King admits there was a little pushback at first, the firm couldn’t be happier with the solutions.  “In the beginning, some were resistant to change and perhaps a little fearful of learning new technology. Today, any document that comes in or goes out of the office is saved electronically by scanning and indexing it right into the appropriate case file.  We have drastically reduced the amount of paper we use.  It has truly streamlined the way we do things and made us much more efficient,” says King.

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