Can you remember when “facsimile transmissions” first appeared on the scene? Although it may seem quaint now, the idea of being able to send and receive the printed word via two machines talking to each other in beeps and bleeps over a telephone line was a remarkable technological advancement for most law offices. Remember, at the time, “snail mail” ruled how offices communicated with each other in writing. There simply was no other reasonable options.
Interestingly, fax technology has advanced little in comparison to other technologies. Sure, we are no longer reliant on that inherently unreliable thermal paper roll (who knew the ink would vanish like a coded message over time?). And ,we can fax faster in snazzy, “all-in-one” business machines that come with reasonable price tags. However, the underlying concept of the fax machine — and the way it functions –has remained basically unchanged. In my opinion, this is largely a reflection of the fact that fax technology was grounded on a well-established, reliable form of communication – the telephone.
And yet, despite its importance to law offices, the fax machine may soon become a relic – a dinosauric representative of an outmoded, paper-driven world, to be shelved next to the mimeograph machine or the telegraph. The “new kid on the block” is the “fax to email” services that are now popping up all over the Internet.
Some of these services can be acquired as stand-alone fax services, while others may form part of more complex Internet-dependent telephone systems such as Voice Over Internet Protocols or VoIPs, a subject I will address in future blog posts.
Prices for a basic “fax to email” service differ widely depending on many factors, so it is important to do your research prior to selecting a company. For example, one feature you might take for granted is that you will be able to “fax out” and “receive.” “Old trusty” in the file room does that, right? Don’t assume that is automatically the case with “fax to email” services. Read the list of features carefully to make sure you are getting what you need.
Assuming you can find a “fax to email” service that suits your needs as a virtual lawyer, I believe you will quickly see why such services are fundamentally superior to the fax machine. Consider this all-too-familiar scenario – you are away from the office when a time-sensitive document is sent via fax to your office. It must be reviewed before you are set to return to the office. In fact, it must be reviewed and maybe even corrected within the next couple of hours.
With a traditional fax machine, that document is likely to go un-reviewed, exposing you to the potential loss of a client and maybe even malpractice. And, even if you are able to pull off getting the document faxed to your hotel’s business office (assuming they have one), review it, mark it up, and fax it back, face it – you will probably be much more stressed than you would like to be.
With “fax to email” services, the initial communication comes to your email inbox as an attachment, which can then be accessed with your laptop or hand-held device. The document can be easily modified and re-sent back through the same system quickly and efficiently – the only requirement being the presence of a reliable Internet connection.
In my opinion, no virtual lawyer can function efficiently with traditional fax machines. Even traditional law firms are rapidly switching to “fax to email” because its benefits are clear. Give careful consideration to adopting a “fax to email” service for your virtual practice.
To get you started, here are some links to some of the most popular contenders in this industry:
Efax.com – I have used this service, and can truthfully say that it was quite reliable. And, though it is a bit more expensive than some of its competitors, it offers more features. I switched from Efax when my office went with a VoIP telephone system that also included “fax to email” services.
Myfax.com – This is another popular service that allows users to both send and receive faxes.
Fax Zero – This is an example of a service that only allows users to send, but not receive faxes. In truth, this type of service is not suitable for most virtual law offices. Think of it as a virtual alternative to having to use Kinko’s or the hotel business office, maybe.
The last thought I will leave you with on this topic — and this is my general philosophy about most online products and services — is that I won’t even give a product or service the time of day unless it offers a reasonable free trial period (e.g., 30 days, not 7 or 14 days) and provides reasonably immediate tech support. This does not necessarily mean a live voice on the telephone, however. But, I do insist on a service such as “live chat” or instant email support.