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October 27, 2017

Bowditch going digital

Grant Welker Bowditch & Dewey managing partner Robert D. Cox Jr., left, with Sam Sendrowski, the firm's new technology innovation manager.

It’s an old stereotypical scene: a lawyer carrying a briefcase stuffed with files into a courthouse, or poring through a pile of documents preparing for a case.

A 103-year-old Worcester law firm Bowditch & Dewey, those scenes will soon be more or less a thing of the past. The firm is going paperless, and that includes giving attorneys tablets to use in court, and getting rid of dozens of filing cabinets worth of legal files in Bowditch & Dewey’s Main Street offices.

“That’s the trend,” said Robert D. Cox Jr., a new managing partner whose duties include overseeing the new digital efforts. “I’m about looking to the future.” 

Looking to the future can be easier for some companies than others. Law firms aren’t exactly tech companies – they focus on winning cases or advising clients. But Bowditch & Dewey sees a modernization of its technology as part of a larger effort that will also include a new website and updated logo. 

“We really need to go paperless in order to do everything we need to do,” said Sam Sendrowski, the firm’s technology innovation manager, who was hired in July. 

Cox, an environmental lawyer with more than three decades at Bowditch & Dewey, is the firm’s new managing partner as of Nov. 1. He helps lead the company’s hiring efforts and is coordinating with Sendrowski on the digital efforts.

Going paperless is enough of a trend for law firms the American Bar Association has a page on its website devoted to the effort, including tips and answers to common ethics questions.

Bowditch & Dewey is eliminating nearly all of its filing cabinets that had been a ubiquitous presence in the offices for decades. So far, about 20,000 boxes of paper files stored on site have been removed.

The extra space opens room for more offices, and a library once filled with books on state laws will be overhauled into a more general-use space as part of the firm’s unrelated ongoing renovations. The firm is going floor-by-floor to update to a brighter, more modern look.

Paperwork on old legal cases will be scanned into searchable files, making archival searches far easier. Attorneys now work off tablets, not briefcases of files, when in court.

Data security is a primary concern, said Jason Matthew, Bowditch & Dewey’s director of information services.

“We stay up-to-date with best practices and partner with outside vendors who provide multiple layers of protection to safeguard against potential threats and continually assess our protocols,” Matthew said. 

In the meantime, Bowditch & Dewey is hiring more lawyers at a time when far fewer graduates are coming out of laws schools. The firm, which has offices in Boston and Framingham, has a total of 60 lawyers, up about eight from two years ago, and 120 employees in all. 

Bowditch & Dewey sold its 65,000-square-foot building at 311 Main St., known as the Central Exchange Building, to Cliff Rucker, the owner of the Worcester Railers. The sale was completed last December for $2.8 million. The firm said its renovations were negotiated as part of a lease agreement.

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