I live in Northern Ireland and connect to my London office virtually over a wide area network (Citrix). I conduct as many meetings as possible using video conferencing software (Cisco?s MOVI software if I?m meeting with criminal justice "partners?, Skype and/or FaceTime for private individuals). I use the service PowWowNow when I arrange multi-party telephone conferences. I go to court, conduct trials and use my iPad or laptop with a second screen.
Benefits of digital working
From experience, there are proven hard cash benefits to working digitally. These include reduced costs of post room; space requirements; printing; stationery; transport /postage / DX / courier; storage / archiving; filing / document retrieval time (increasing productivity); and process steps, reducing bureaucracy, duplication, rework.
Soft benefits include improving resilience and disasterrecovery; client service (improved response times, a faster legal aid application process, fast auditing/ compliance checks, improved cash flow); embedded quality in documents; collaborative working; security of personal information; and the impact on the environment.
Getting and storing material
The end goal is to ensure that all case material is stored securely, organised logically for future retrieval and capable of beingsecurely distributed.
With the exception of the CPS, many of our CJS partners continue to work in analogue (paper), which means that we have to convert their product into digital data. This is usually done by scanning papers and saving images in a common format such as pdf (or images are character-recognised). It is also possible to use a Scan2Email fax service, which convertsfaxes to pdfs and send them via email.
When material is received digitally, it requires processing to extract it from its encrypted container.
What we do with the material
The tasks we undertake as lawyers day in, day out, are worth breaking down into simple bullet points:
- "import? evidence (by reading, or listening to testimony or reviewing by an investigator or lawyer in court);
- note our findings;
- highlight relevant areas;
- bookmark areas of interest for future reference;
- share our findings with clients and members of the team;
- take our clients? instructions on material considered; and
- correspond with people.
The following shopping list is for software and equipment needed to work digitally from your office: scanner; two computer monitors (or wide screen); reasonably sized keyboard; mouse (or touch screen); sufficient storage capacity; software that at the very least is capable of marking up, bookmarking/ inserting / extracting pages from pdf (not the free Acrobat reader).
Working paperless away from the office, for example in a courtroom, police station or secure detention environment raises additional requirements: choose an appropriate portable device, considering size, weight, battery life and compatibility with your existing equipment; make sure you adequately protect the information contained on it; and think about how you will use it to exchange data with your back office.