Are Documents for Dinosaurs?

Written By: Michelle P. Quinn

documents in shelves at office

Most Millennials and GenZers would say we have become (or should become) an entirely paperless society. Yet many Boomers and GenXers still prefer tangible, physical documents that can be read without the need for electricity or battery power. Are they dinosaurs? Has the need for paper actually become extinct? Can law firms and businesses (including cooperative and condominium boards) operate entirely without paper? 

On one hand, electronic filing has now become mandatory in most New York state courts. On the other hand, litigants are still required to provide paper “courtesy” copies to some judges, and many use their own “hard” copies when making court appearances. Law firms shifting to virtual file-keeping are increasing in number as technology has become essential to the practice of law. Electronic communications have some obvious benefits such as ubiquitous access for anyone with a computer and virtually instantaneous delivery. 

Yet paper allows complete creative freedom; there is unrestrained innovative potential with a sheet of blank paper that can be liberating. Edits and revisions can be more manageable on a printed page. Ironically, messages, emails, and documents of significant importance are often saved and printed. Having some paper in the firm is not a bad thing.

While many landlords are now offering “click to pay” online systems for payment of maintenance or common charges, many tenants still prefer to receive paper statements in order to fully understand and have a record of their account. Traditionally, most aspects of building operations – repair requests, board minutes, election votes, expense receipts – are kept in paper form, with which older owners are far more comfortable. To accommodate both the desire to satisfy these owners and to streamline the retention of information, these documents can be scanned and maintained electronically, and printed when needed.

Considerations when establishing and maintaining a paperless process range from security and storage, to organization methods, to ethics. In an age where identity theft and computer hacking have become so prevalent, caution should be paramount in the manner of document retention and sharing.

The best practice is to review where you continue to use paper, determine if that paper is necessary and the most efficient way to operate, and then adjust your processes accordingly.

about the authors

Michelle P. Quinn


Michelle P. Quinn represents cooperative and condominium boards, businesses, and individuals regarding issues with shareholders and owners in commercial and residential landlord-tenant litigation, including summary proceedings, administrative agency hearings, and Supreme Court actions and appeals.  She has substantial experience with Mitchell-Lama cooperatives, redevelopment companies, and tenancies protected by New York State Rent Regulation.

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