Medieval Law Firms To Modern Day - Part One

law firms

Part One: We are going to take you on a journey, something not many of us have been on in 2020 and 2021 – this however, is not a holiday, it is a journey in time…

What invention had the biggest impact on the world?

If you surveyed this question out to 100 people, how many different answers would you get back? We would expect quite a few, depending on who you ask. Some of the obvious answers would be the wheel, cars, a compass, computers, TV & radio and the internet!

With the recent pandemic, it is a strong argument to suggest medicine and vaccinations are without doubt the most important invention in history. We know a scientist would agree!

Let’s not forget the legendary inventors Thomas Edison, Alexander Bell and the Wright Brothers. Without any of these incredible pioneers shaping the world, what would life be like now?

Well, what’s the most underrated invention ever?

So let us take you back...

Possibly the most overlooked and often misconstrued invention is Print. More specifically, a printer. Why? Because it gave the world a new medium of expression and communication. In turn, print launched a global news network giving the poor the opportunity to close the wealth divide as access to information became more readily available.

The year is 1440, a young pioneering German goldsmith by the name of Johannes Gutenberg has just invented the very first ink-based printing press. When a craftsman revolt erupted in Mainz against the noble class in 1428, Gutenberg’s family was exiled and settled in what is now Strasbourg, France, where his experiments with printing began.

The design was simple yet effective and involved a hand cranked press that rolled ink over the raised surfaces of movable metal type and pressed against a sheet of paper… simple by today’s standards.

Prior to the invention of the press, all text had to be handwritten. The average man could only produce a maximum of 40 to 50 pages a day.

Guttenberg’s first invention of the press could produce up to a staggering 3,600 pages per day, gifting an additional 7000% increase in productivity – and so the print revolution began.

This enabled the circulation of new information and ideas globally, mass-producing books and creating the very first newspapers. By the end of the century, hundreds of cities were involved in the revolution.

Prints first court case

A new agreement was drawn up making Johann Fust a partner in Gutenberg’s business. However, by 1455, Gutenberg was still unable to pay the debt and Fust sued. Court records are sketchy, but scholars believe that while the trial was going on, Gutenberg was able to print his masterpiece, the “Forty-Two-Line” Bible, now known as the Gutenberg Bible.

Have we overlooked paper?

The print press is inoperative without paper. The same could be said about today’s Law Firm. It’s crazy to think how far technology has come but yet we still heavily depend on paper. Practically every task that takes place in the legal industry today utilises paper. From deeds and contracts, to wills, leases, agreements, and litigations – the list of paper files that are necessary for the success of any task in this document-intensive industry is endless.

Get to the point!

Every paper document must get to a particular point. Whether that be the point of sale, making a point with factual information or making its journey to the last point of its use, until discarded or stored away, hopefully within an electronic system!

So why is paper still challenging in Law Firms?

The industry has been slow to embrace digitisation, in part, this is due to the documents needing to be presented in court as hard copies. With there still being a high level of dependency on paper.

It is fair to say Covid-19 has accelerated changes to the landscape of technology, bringing further challenges. This is because new technological advances bring both threats and opportunities to the legal sector.

Firms clearly need to work and connect with their clients, but also sell to them, in new ways in the emerging next normal.

In the grand scheme of things, business decisions should always align with the company’s long-term objectives. If they do not, costly mistakes can happen.

Not managing paper flow and storage

A crucial step towards driving efficiency in law firms is having effective workflows. Increased productivity is gifted when firms can establish a repetitive workflow process.

Not tracking and recouping print costs

Regardless to size, most firms will be required to print huge volumes of collateral, particularly when it comes to case notes and research.

However, it is surprising the number of firms that don’t adequately track these costs when it comes to client re-charges, or alternatively use time-consuming ‘manual’ methods to do this.

Used in many firms but not all, print management software allow the volume of print jobs to be unobtrusively tracked across an entire office keeping costs consistent, as well as calculating a cost on the volume of print work per client 7.

Not taking security properly

We usually consider hacking as the main security issue, but it is often more domestic matters causing security breaches, for example, someone printing out sensitive documents, forgetting about them and then leaving them on the printer.

Simple ‘rules based’ technology such as pull-print technology safeguards every document. Every job sent to the printer must be authorised at the device before it can be claimed. This can return a substantial cost savings when it comes to toner and paper.

Multi-functional print devices store anything scanned or printed on them on an internal hard disk, and subsequently failing to delete this when selling or throwing away may have devastating consequences. Encrypted hard disks on all scanning and print devices is a conversation often overlooked.