Starting Your Own Law Office: 5 Alternatives to Faxing

More and more lawyers find that their best career path is opening their own office.  Going it alone can seem scary, especially since it means you need to take care of all of those basic office functions that somebody else always handled.  We’re going to show you how you can take care of business with all of the technology you’ll need – without getting taken to the cleaners.

Yes, you still need to fax – no joke

There’s an old joke: somebody asked to send me a fax. I told them I couldn’t do that because of where I live.  They asked me where I live.  I told them “in 2019.”

People have probably been telling that joke for years, and we could probably substitute any year after maybe 1997 in place of 2019. 

Yet, many business still use faxes, as this article titled “Why Faxes Won’t Die” tells us.  Restaurants, journalists and especially physicians all seem to still depend on faxes for various reasons.  So, if your practice deals with a lot of medical records (or maybe you order a lot of food to go), you’ll need some way of sending and receiving faxes.

1. Online services

One of the most commonly-used alternatives to buying a fax machine is using an online service.  There are seemingly dozens of such services available, which can make it difficult to chose the right one.  Worse, there are all too many stories of services that don’t live up to their promises.  Some of these services are also known for making it infernally difficult to cancel a subscription, even worse than your local gym.

Fortunately, there are a lot of guides to the best (and worst) services, including this one from the highly-reputable Tom’s Guide.  Most of the best services offer at least a 30-day free trial.  Many offer differing levels of monthly charges for a subscription.  We recommend that you check the Tom’s Guide or any of several other recent online guides before signing up.

Note that if you need to comply with HIPAA, perhaps because you do have to receive a lot of medical record faxes, there are a couple of recommended services that have the strict privacy controls needed:  SFax and Sookasa.

2. Email to fax

Many of the online faxing services offer email to fax/fax to email services that work right from your favorite email app.  One of these services, SRfax provides an excellent guide to just how simple it this is if you use the right provider. 

Remember that all of the caveats from above apply: make sure you find a recommended service that will let you cancel without a problem and provide the security protections you need for confidential information or PHI.

3. Smartphone scanning

While online faxing and email to fax can help you deal with electronic documents, sometimes you need to deal with paper.  You could buy a flat-bed office scanner or an inexpensive multifunction machine (even good, Wi-Fi color laser-jet printer/scanner/fax machines are available for less than $400).  But the best news is that you almost certainly have a scanner right in your pocket: your smartphone.

Like online faxing services, there is a plethora of choices that you can make in this area.  Microsoft offers an Office app called OfficeLens.  However, as this recent review from PC Magazine shows, there are many better-rated choices, by OCR-leader ABBYY, Dropbox and Evernote.

However, if you’ve kept up with your iPhone and iPad operating system installs and are at iOS 11 or later, you don’t even need an application to scan.  This article in the online technology magazine TheVerge will show you how you can use what they call “Apple’s terrific document scanner.”

4. Cloud file sharing services

Although these might not be acceptable to users who insist on turning paper documents into electronic ones, if you are starting with electronic documents you can always use one of the many cloud file sharing services.  Box and Dropbox are by far the best known of such services, but Google Drive can work as well.  You can start with free services, but upgrading to a paid subscription gives you security and privacy controls that help protect confidential documents as required by ethical rules.

5. Your local shipping/supply store

Don’t want to sign up for a service or pay a monthly subscription fee?  You can always head to your local UPS or FedEx store and use their fax machine for a relatively low cost.  Staples also offers faxing services.  Of course, arranging to receive a fax at a store could be a lot trickier, and you certainly don’t want to leave confidential client records sitting around.

There’s more to come . . .

We’ll cover more easy and affordable alternatives to expensive or cumbersome office infrastructure in the blog posts ahead.  And, in the meantime, if you want to find an alternative to expensive and cumbersome document automation software you can download and start using Woodpecker for free.  Just sign up for a free account here, and see why our customers continue to tell us how much they love Woodpecker.

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