Breaking Lawyers’ Paper-Wasting Habits: Proofreading and the Paperless Law Firm

By Ivy B. Grey

The ideal of a paperless office has been talked about for decades. In the last century it turned out to be nothing but a fantasy. However, a generational shift combined with improvements in technology has changed that. The change is being driven by economics. A 2007 article by CBA PracticeLink advised that law firms could save more than $7,000 per year by going paperless. In 2015, a survey of solo and small firm lawyers by MyCase, found that 47% of respondents were interested in moving to a paperless office. So with clear desire and a solid business case, what’s holding firms back? Concerns about file management, privacy, and data security issues have largely been resolved by improvements in the legal technology field. But a bigger hurdle remains: breaking lawyers’ paper-wasting habits.

A completely paperless office is probably too extreme for the legal field. Some business materials need to be printed, such as certain contracts and employment forms. However, even if the notion of an entirely paperless office is fanciful, lawyers can still enjoy the environmental and cost benefits of reducing paper waste. All that takes is using less paper. One of the best ways to do that is to think about the incredible amount of paper wasted on proofreading.

Using Less Paper

Cutting down the many rounds of printing associated with the proofreading process is an easy way to begin reducing paper waste. Of course, when proofreading, it’s vital to catch every mistake. So it makes sense to print the document and review it in hard copy. But printing it out multiple times for every read-through? That’s a wasteful habit that we can target and change by using technology. The trick is to make on-screen review far more effective. And PerfectIt with American Legal Style can help.

Better On-Screen Review

After you’ve read through your work on-screen—but before you print—run PerfectIt on your document. It will search for errors in many aspects of legal style. For example, PerfectIt checks if the defined terms that you’ve used are capitalized throughout an entire document. PerfectIt will also find errors that you did not catch as you scrolled from page to page, including consistency errors. With PerfectIt’s help, you can dramatically enhance the accuracy and reliability of your on-screen review which cuts down the number of read-throughs that you’ll need.

Italicization ErrorFigure 1: Software can improve your on-screen review

When your on-screen review is effective, you can pay more attention to the flow and substance of your argument when you are reviewing on paper because you are not getting caught up in distracting non-substantive mistakes. Now your on-paper editing can be in-depth, substantive, and focused. After editing on paper, you can run PerfectIt again to catch any new problems that were introduced during the substantive editing process.

Better Editing with Half the Paper Waste

PerfectIt with American Legal Style will not replace a human editor, and it’s hard to break old habits, so you will probably wish to print and review your document one last time. But by introducing intelligent technology into your process, you’ve reduced your printing and proofreading rounds by 50% or more.

Most importantly, reducing paper waste during proofreading is a great first step to cutting waste around the office. While it may give seasoned attorneys a case of the jitters to consider throwing out contracts or letters, it should not cause palpitations to simply not print draft after draft of the same document! It’s one of the easiest changes you can make, and the savings in cost and environmental waste are immediate.

Take the first step in your transition to a paperless office by committing to use less paper now. Increase the effectiveness of your on-screen review, reduce rounds of proofreading, and cut down on the paper that you use to do so by using PerfectIt with American Legal Style. Download it today.


Ivy B. Grey is the author of American Legal Style for PerfectIt. It adds polish, reduces frustration, and saves non-billable time. Ms. Grey is also a Senior Attorney at Griffin Hamersky LLP. She's been named as a Rising Star in the New York Metro Area three years in a row, and her significant representations include In re AMR Corp. (American Airlines), In re Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP, In re Eastman Kodak Company, and In re Nortel Networks Inc.

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