September 13, 2012 ISSUE

Stop Shipping Profits Out the Door
By Loren LaQuintano

Of all the cost centers that law firm administrators have to monitor and manage, the one that is typically overlooked is the mailroom. Unfortunately, mail operations are likely costing most law firms far more than they know. In The Facility Management Handbook, one cited study reported that mail accounts for more than 9 percent of total operating costs for Fortune 500 companies. In midsized law firms, that number is, in all likelihood, significantly higher because they usually lack the resources to buy the latest technology or stay abreast of changing regulations and opportunities.

Mailroom challenges
"The use of express delivery services, such as FedEx and UPS, has exploded, going from $10 billion in 1989 to $180 billion in 2009," said Nick Staffieri, Regional Director for Mail Systems Management Association and a Certified Mail and Distribution Systems Manager. "A great many of these expenditures — perhaps 10 to 25 percent — could be avoided by improving the operations in shipping departments and mailrooms."

Beyond the USPS and express delivery services, law firm administrators need to calculate time and costs for inter- and intra-office mail when assessing their mailroom operations. Firms that operate more than one office can accumulate significant delays, security risks and expenses just by moving documents within their own facilities and using messengers, couriers or full-time staff. As labor and fuel costs continue to rise, these expenses escalate accordingly.

The challenge in finding mailroom savings is that many administrators simply don't know what to look for or what types of solutions are best for their firms. In 2009, InfoPrint Solutions surveyed 102 people responsible for print/mailroom solutions. Nearly 60 percent said they were not confident that their organizations pay the least amount possible for postage. Nearly half do not think that their mailrooms are running as efficiently as possible.

Mailroom solutions
Some solutions that may improve mailroom efficiency and reduce or contain costs include:

  • Revising document handling processes and workflows
  • Upgrading or changing computer hardware and/or software
  • Using on-site, non-employee specialists in place of employees

Data recognition and capture technologies have evolved so much that many companies are switching from a traditional process where scanning is done after sorting and handling to early scanning that is completed beforehand. This can reduce manual work by 50 percent or more. Typically, automating mailroom processes can show a return on investment in less than a year.

Firms should look to mailroom solutions that help them to conform to legal requirements, capturing documents as they enter the office and providing secure audit trails for the entire document lifecycle. That includes using trained, on-site professionals who are better qualified to support chain-of-custody requirements and maintain compliance with other legal requirements, such as Sarbanes-Oxley. According to Staffieri, specialists can also bring the latest information, guidelines and data to clients, and help them apply best practices.

At the end of the day, there are several solutions that can help firms better manage their mailroom expenditures, but working with a mail systems expert may help to figure out the best way to prevent firms from shipping profits out the door.

Loren LaQuintano is the Vice President of MCS Management Services. He has more than 25 years of experience in executive management; the last 19 with MCS Management Services focused on outsourcing and legal support services.



This article is republished from ALA Currents, an ALA member newsletter.


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