Going paperless in the courtroom

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For many years, there has been a common preconception that, while paperless processes would be hugely advantageous to the legal services sector, there are a number of obstacles that stand in the way of this workflow being adopted.

Foremost among these concerns is whether or not electronically-stored documents are admissible in court. This tends to be a source of frustration for advocates of the paperless office. It has been established for almost two decades in the UK that scanned documents carry evidential weight, but many legal professionals are still slow off the mark to acknowledge the fact and adopt digital methodologies. However, according to a number of early adopters interviewed by The Lawyer, the paperless courtroom might be a very real proposition in a few years’ time, bringing with it a raft of benefits to the legal services sector.

John Reynolds, a partner at White & Case, told the publication that technology in general has led to an “explosion of information” i.e. the body of evidence used in each case has grown exponentially; incorporating emails, voice data and so on, making electronic document management practically a necessity. Mr Reynolds said: “Statements and court documents are getting much longer. Without technology the task of managing this information and presenting it to prepare for trial effectively would be impossible. It would take longer and cost more. And something might be missed. “Once you’ve used [a paperless system], you never want to do a trial without it.”

Andrew Moran QC, a barrister with Stone Chambers, made similar observations. He gave an example of a case where the hard copies of the documents used “filled several rooms in the court building”. Carrying scanned versions around on a laptop, however, presented no problems.

The benefits of going paperless can be profoundly felt in almost any sector – even legal services, should firms come round to the viewpoint that scanned documents have the requisite authenticity and integrity to hold up in court.

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