The Paper Bundle – An Outdated Icon?

Wednesday, May 11th, 2022

(Originally published on 5 July 2015)

The opening episode of BBC legal drama Silks featured feisty Northern lawyer Maxine Peake triumphantly scrawling NG (Not Guilty) on her case file in lipstick.

This single scene effectively played every card in the legal-drama deck: the youthful blonde in the barrister’s wig, the weary jury, the relieved defendant, and perhaps most iconic of all the pink-ribboned bundle of legal papers.

Novels, films and TV series featuring lawyers would be odd indeed without that familiar sight: coloured tabs fluttering from a bulging buff-coloured file, with perhaps a sheet or two left indiscreetly for a passing journo to drive forward the plot. Try and picture Rumpole without a bundle tucked under his pin-striped arm, and it’s like imagining Dr Who without his TARDIS.

Over in the real-life sets and firms in Temple and on Chancery Lane, the bundle’s no less iconic. The lawyer’s fetish for stationery is no surprise: painstakingly applying coloured post-it tabs to page after page is almost as much part of trial preparation as drafting a skeleton argument.

But in the world of iPads and smartphones, of the Cloud and Drop-boxes and 24-hour secure access to online confidential files, has the paper bundle reached the end of its natural term?

In an article for the New Law Journal, HHJ Peter Brown QC emphasised the need for firms to move into the 21st century, citing the Jackson Report’s concern with firms ensuring their practice is ‘fit for purpose’.  IT, he says, has  “Revolutionised the way we all instantly communicate around the globe, making paper documents anachronistic…Lawyers—including judges—must embrace new technologies.”

The benefits of transferring to electronic bundles are clear. Preparation of paper bundles is exceedingly time-consuming, entailing hours at the photocopier or printer, with the inevitable increase in cost, and capacity for human error. Switching to the electronic bundle, lawyers dreading deadline panic will find documents can be added or disclosed right up to the wire with minimal disruption or effort. Firms with an eco-conscience who shudder at their paper consumption will welcome the potential for the e-bundle to reduce their paper burden.

Perhaps most excitingly, new e-Discovery technologies permit swift and accurate processing of data, including redaction, tagging and commenting, whether data is in text or image format.

But no transition comes without concern – and it’s unlikely that the beloved paper bundle is to be consigned to legal history just yet. There are a number of issues that firms and chambers must consider, not least the implications for data confidentiality and protection. The ease with which papers can be shared online must be met with rigorous security procedures that entail sophisticated firewall and antivirus technology – something no firm should consider without seeking professional guidance.

At Legastat, a long professional history of traditional litigation support is married with ahead-of-the-curve technological expertise, and the latest developments in e-Discovery and e-Disclosure.  Whatever the future of the paper bundle, Legastat remains the first choice for firms and chambers keen to ensure their practice remains, in the words of the Jackson Report, absolutely ‘fit for purpose’.

Share this page

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.