What They Didn’t teach you at the Law School
Law School prepares you to think, write and research like a lawyer, but once you’re at the door of a law firm or a courtroom, there’s a whole new set of skills you need. The present series of articles aims to enrich a new lawyer with all these skills in order for him/her to excel.
Filing is the process of systematic and scientific preservation of official documents for future reference or evidence. It is putting the documents, letters, etc. into a file.
Accessing files easily and finding documents on short notice is important to a lawyer and establishing a reliable filing system is crucial.
Here are some tips to establish an efficient filing system:
• Establish a logical numbered or alphabetized system. You could use client-matter numbers, which usually allows for easy integration into other office systems and software.
• Separate your administrative and litigation files. Consider colour-coding folders and/or tabs for litigation files.
• Place your fee agreement and a client card with contact information for all parties in the front cover. This will save you precious time should you need to contact your client, opposing counsel, or anyone else involved in the case.
• Use the next section for all written correspondence with your client, with the opposing counsel, with the court, or with anyone else involved in the case. Organize these letters by date (the most recent one on top). The next section should be reserved for important emails related to the case.
• Use the last section for pleadings, court filings, and orders. Again keep everything organized by date, with the most recent on top.
• If you have more documents, such as legal research or financial documents that may be used as exhibits, organize these into separate, labeled file folders that can be simply tucked into your main folder.
• When filing all of these documents, try to have everything in the file as soon as possible. Do NOT let it pile up!
• Ensure your and all staffs’ familiarity with the filing system. It’s really very frustrating if you waste half a day looking for a particular piece of missing correspondence or pleading prior to a deadline. An efficient law office should have an established, well-defined, and logical filing system that can be understood with minimal effort by any new hire.
While paper based file folders is the choice for many law firms, this is slowly changing with the realisation that the costs associated with this method (the time spent on creating and amending documents, searching for lost files, printing and storage) are high.
Since the use of electronic documents is becoming much more widespread, it is a good idea to switch over to electronic documents.
Searching through electronic documents is quicker and easier. The digitised search function can help you recover specific documents and proves vital for those times when you require immediate answers to case related questions. Further, electronic documents are easier to access, share, mark up and amend.
The electronic matter files allow you to collate all the case related documents into a single, password secured electronic binder. This not only makes it easy to organise and move complete cases, but also to share them among the authorised team members.
Now-a-days, lawyers work on their iPads and other mobile devices which give them access to case files and information immediately. With the use of any file sharing technology, electronic folders can be shared. So, you are not required to physically carry folders that are bulky, heavy and inconvenient.
Digitisation further saves loads of paper which has a huge environmental impact. Also paper based folders consume a lot of office space. But once digitised, matter folders can be stored on the in-house server and no additional space is required.
Having a good filing system, whether paper-based or digitized, and staying organized will save you loads of time in the long run. It will make it easier for you in the court when you show up with all of your documents organized and easy to locate.