Paperless Office? Yes. But We Use As Much Paper As We Ever Did!
All businesses need their “Books”. Whether documented in paper ledgers or on computer disc, no Business can rely on memory alone to sort out who did what, and when, and what money is payable or owing. The taxman requires documentary proof of all trading after all.
Many businesses are also keeping records for their clients. Banks and Solicitors, Life Assurance Companies and many other concerns are always expected to be able to account to their clients, or indeed their Executors, to fill in gaps in the client’s own recollection or understanding of what was done and when.
In each of those professions or businesses, there are rules as to when old records can be destroyed. And, generally speaking, those businesses are liable only to their paying clients and perhaps their Regulatory Body if records are lost or destroyed early
The Notarial profession is different to all of the others, in that a Notary is required to maintain records without limit of time. And a Notary owes this responsibility not only to the party who paid for his services, but to anyone in the world who has read and relied upon a Notarial certificate.
So Notarial records have to be kept “forever”! Even after my death, my records would then need to be passed directly for safe keeping to the control of my Regulator, the Faculty Office of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
I qualified and began practicing as a Notary in 1993 and my record keeping began then. At that time there was no affordable computer scanning of documents. Everything had to be copied, and the copies filed and stored in boxes. In my case, the boxes were stored in my garage and by time I had been collecting papers for twelve years or so, the car had to be parked outside the garage to make room.
In 2008 I retired as a Solicitor and set up my present Notarial office dealing with Notarial duties only – by then scanning facilities had become available and affordable and so these days I can operate a paperless system. This works very well and all records can be kept safely and securely and indeed backed up on several drives for resilience.
The really big job was left for my marvellous assistant, Louise Morley, who has recently concluded the task of taking the backlog of fifteen years’ worth of records, and scanning it all into the back-up system. This task was no easy feat, indeed it took around eighteen months to complete – each individual piece of paper in all the boxes and boxes needed to be scanned and indexed accordingly.
Even now and then there was a scream – Louise had shaken a file and a dead spider had landed on her desk.
Now all the old paper records, scanned and saved and indexed, have been securely shredded.
My notarial office now runs competently on a paperless* system – and my car is back in its garage – the new system works extremely well.
*In truth, I cannot say that we use any less paper than we ever did – but the point is that once the job is done, we no longer have to keep the paper for ever.
There is one caveat to all this in my mind. As a storage medium, paper and papyrus has been going a few years longer than computers. The oldest records on paper are some 2500 years old and if they had been written in English, would be as easy to read now as on the day they were written.
The earliest computerised documents management systems date back as far as what – thirty, maybe forty years? And who now can easily read what may have been written on an Amstrad or Commodore floppy disc? Hmmm.
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