The Problem of Paper in a Digital World

There are many benefits to businesses that choose to go paperless by implementing digital processes. The benefits of a paperless office include time savings, faster turnaround times, better customer experiences and cost savings. Many law firms have accelerated their adoption of digital following the pandemic, but bottlenecks persist. Paper, manual and repetitive processes can still slow down progress and can cause a reduction in productivity, performance, customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, compliance and revenue. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced teams to look beyond paper and manual processes and replace them with end-to-end digitised workflows. This article looks at some of the problems paper can cause and how law teams are starting to address them. Could the pandemic make the paperless law firm a reality?

The Challenges of Paper  

A global survey of 605 process decision-makers The 2019 State of Systems of Agreement, commissioned by Forrester Consulting on behalf of DocuSign, found that many organisations had manual processes to transfer data from paper to legacy systems, websites or excel spreadsheets. It found that in 2019, two-thirds of departments in large companies were processing at least 500 agreements a month, 84% of which were generated manually, and 64% of those agreements had to be approved by legal. Analogue processes can have a significant impact on overall business performance. 46% of legal teams said that manual processes delayed the start of projects, and 45% said it caused poor customer experiences. Even if each one were only to take five minutes, this would equate to a full working week for one team member. In addition, 49% of organisations lack the ability to easily find and manage their agreements, let alone ensure they are secure and executed in compliance with legal or regulatory obligations.

In the later Forrester State of Systems of Agreement Survey in 2020, commissioned by DocuSign, the results still found manual processes in place -  32% of decision-makers responded that manual agreement processes cause inefficiency, and 54% of responders said they duplicate work by re-entering data from manual agreements to contracts that already exist. 

There are numerous other problems caused by paper in today’s digital world. Manual processes can incur additional expenses related to printing and posting. Filing cabinets are not accessible remotely, and it can be challenging to locate the documents you need. 

These paper-based processes are no longer necessary - organisations can remove manual tasks by automating workflows and streamlining processes to avoid repetition. The manual processing of agreements is slow and resource-intensive, putting businesses at a disadvantage against more agile competition. Automation can improve the productivity and performance of legal departments and the pandemic has accelerated automation. As the speed of business and the need for remote functional work increased in 2020, it became even more important to solve the problems caused by paper and manual processes in a way that set the stage for sustained, scalable digital transformation.

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Implementing Cloud Technology and Digital Tools

For lawyers, cloud-based document storage has become essential - it allows lawyers to securely access files and collaborate on them from anywhere in the world. By digitising documents and moving processes into the cloud during the pandemic - law departments and firms have an opportunity to relieve some of this workload. Digital tools and the reduction of manual, paper-based tasks have allowed legal teams to work remotely. Many legal teams have adopted customer lifecycle management tools that can help to automate high volume and low complexity legal contracts like non-disclosure agreements. A Thomson Reuters Survey suggests that remote working is here to stay for the law profession - their survey discovered 9 out of 10 lawyers don’t want to return to the office full time.

In the Forrester Consulting State of Sytems of Agreement Survey 2021, commissioned by DocuSign, 96% of decision-makers said they would continue to use new technology implemented during the pandemic. DocuSign also commissioned a survey of more than 800 Global Corporate Legal professionals to focus on their contracting responsibilities and the tools they use to manage their work. 

The DocuSign Digital Trends for Legal Teams study found that respondents were looking to technology to reduce errors (53%), save them time (51%), automate tasks (41%), and increase collaboration (45%). 43% of responders said that digitising legal workflows was one of the most important trends affecting the legal function, and 37% said supporting a “work from anywhere” legal department was important. Some of the key problems legal responders experienced included a lack of visibility into where a contract is in the signing process (53%), too many parts of the process are manual (54%), and a lack of easy access to stored contracts (41%).

The types of tools legal departments are already using to help them solve the problem of paper are:

  • CLM - 30% said they have already implemented CLM software and 62% of respondents believe this software will be critical to success in their role within the next five years
  • Electronic Signature - 31% have implemented eSignature software, and 78% think it will be critical to success in their role in the next five years.
  • CRM - 48% have implemented CRM software, and 67% think it will be critical to success in the next five years.

The levels of remote working that skyrocketed during the pandemic are likely to remain high for some time. Legal departments are undergoing digital transformation, and many law firms are rapidly reinventing processes that previously required physical documents to solve the problem of paper.

Find out more about what the DocuSign Agreement Cloud for Legal could do for your organisation.

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