Business Litigation Costs Can Be Reduced and Contained

April 16, 2009 by  Filed under: Management 

The “paperless office” in most businesses is still a long way off. Because there is still a certain security and trust in “paper documents,” transactions with paper are still the norm.  Everyday, while electronic files are being shared and distributed, the same makers of those files are generating paper copies of their documents for drafts, collaboration, markup, conferences, etc. 

One could even argue that electronic documents are more subject to tampering than paper. And, the printing of one looks identical to the one that is originally generated by a word processor. If the creator of those files wants to mark them, in most instances, it is a two or three step manual process for the electronic document. But first, the document has to be created by the word processor with a PDF/XPS writer.

If the user is not familiar with document marking, PDF/XPS creation is usually done without marking. The worker assumes the “electronic” nature of the document will “protect” it from unintended use. Next, the worker must have a PDF marking program such as Acrobat (XPS is much more difficult to change and later mark) and be able to manually create and apply the necessary document marking to protect the document if it is printed. This keeps the document consistent with its intended use in the process of being shared.

Fast forward to the inevitable in the business environment – litigation. And litigation means, in most cases, mounds of paper document production. More recently, that also means e-discovery or electronic discovery of all of the “relevant” files that exist on your computer hard drives and backup tapes. That means that there will usually be paper copies of documents that have no indication of purpose or limitation indicated on them as well as your electronic documents possibly being in the same condition. Your document marking and management policies will now be in question. Next, the disputes will arise between litigants and lawyers as to the authenticity of certain documents and which ones are the “originals,” copies, first drafts, second drafts, etc.

Proving the authenticity of an electronic document is much more difficult than doing so with paper. where legal fees will be incurred. Discovery disputes consume vast amounts of resources, time and energy. If your entity is sorting through multiple copies of a document and there is a question as to what version is the original, the party that comes up with the signed, UNMARKED, paper document is going to have one big edge. 

Look at some other factors that arise from zealous litigants. If you have been using rubber stamps to mark your documents, chances are the stamp is in the margin and just on the first page. With today’s quality of copier, the stamp is dropped out and your copy becomes an “original.” The same holds true for watermarks – change the contrast setting and the gray-color of the watermark disappears with everything else remains the same. You are now left with more attorney’s fees – arguing over something that should have never been. 

Automation software for paper document management is an inexpensive form of insurance.    Best practices dictates that ALL documents should be marked when they are created to prevent any misunderstanding by the recipient as to the intent or use of the document. This practice can only approach reality with an automated document marking program. Rubber stamps in the margin are not a solution for secure and efficient document management.

Add to that, if a worker requires multiple copies of a document to be marked and the document has multiple pages, each page requires identification if the document is to be secure and/or protected. Otherwise, at least the first page of each copy needs to be stamped. The use of self-inking and/or “rubber” stamps for paper-based workflows is an archaic and grossly inefficient form of business document marking. Evidence of this exists in the simple fact that the use of self-inking stamps is a manual process that can be more efficiently performed by a word processor with the right automation.  The only sure way to prevent a copy from becoming an original is to use non-contrast sensitive marking that is imbedded into the text of the document. Only an automated solution makes that process economical and convenient.

Using automated graphical document marking in the business environment affords document integrity, security, standardization and regulatory compliance that cannot be had from self-inking stamps. Manual processes cannot accomplish, and indeed may inhibit these very necessary objectives. And, when the time comes, you will save you substantial attorney’s fees.

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