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Setting Up An Effective Filing System

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Setting Up An Effective Filing System

  1. 1. MANAGING YOUR PRACTICE Setting Up an Effective Filing System By Beverly Michaelis notebooks when files are closed and Organizing and maintaining a filing In numeric or numeric combination put binder contents into a folder for system that meets your firm’s needs filing systems, file numbers can be easier storage.) can be a frustrating endeavor. What assigned in sequential order, with or works well in one practice area may without a year designation. For What about size? In the battle of not translate to another. This article example, the Jones corporate file letter vs. legal, economy wins out examines the most common could be No. 100 (a sequential again. Letter-size files are less approaches to organizing file number without a year) or 07-100 if expensive and make the best use of material and provides tips that can it was file number 100 opened in space in the majority of filing be applied in virtually every office. 2007. Alternatively, you could cabinet systems. With the scaling assign each client a permanent Filing Systems: down of documents from 14 inches number with sequential numbers for to 11 inches in length, legal-size each matter file opened on the Alpha vs. Numeric folders are no longer necessary. client’s behalf. If John Jones’ If you find the subject of file permanent client number was 1000, management baffling, you are not Color Coding his matter files would be 1000-01 alone. If you are a newer lawyer, (real property), 1000-02 (corporate), Color-coding of files can be a very your exposure to office systems 1000-03 (litigation) and 1000-04 effective way to improve the may be limited, depending on (tax). efficiency of your filing system. By previous work experience. If you associating a color with a given are a seasoned lawyer who has left a If you elect to number your files, category of main file or subfile, you firm to set up a solo practice or remember these two tips. First, use can easily locate the information partnership, you may feel the least number of digits possible. you are looking for. For example, a compelled to mimic your old firm’s The longer your number sequences, general practice might use color- file structure. Before doing so, the greater the likelihood of filing coding for main files: red for carefully consider which system is errors. Second, keep a master domestic relations, green for real best for you and your type of client/matter list on your computer property, yellow for personal injury, clientele: numbering client files or to minimize duplicate file numbers blue for wills and estates. When organizing them alphabetically. and other mistakes. Although such Ms. Smith calls about her divorce, it lists can be set up in word is easy to pick out the red file sitting For the typical small law office, the processing programs such as Word on the associate’s credenza. Color alphabet can’t be beat. It is the or WordPerfect, a database or case association is an advantage at filing most straightforward and efficient management program is preferable. time for the same reason. If approach to organizing client files. documents need to be filed in the When “John Jones” calls to ask a File Media: Folders vs. Taylor real property and personal question about his case, the Jones Binders injury cases, the appropriate green file is easily located without the and yellow files can easily be need to refer to a list or index that Now that you have decided upon a distinguished. cross-references file numbers to filing system, how should the file client names. This approach works material itself be stored? File If you prefer, you can use plain well for lawyers who tend to have folders? Notebook binders? If you clients with one-time matters. i folders for your main file and color- use file folders, should they be code your subfiles: blue for legal letter-size or legal? Different If, however, you work in a multi- research, yellow for pleadings, red practices lend themselves to attorney office, or have single for discovery, and so forth. Use the different methods of organization, clients with many matters, a method that works best for you and but file folders are generally the numeric or combination alpha- your cases. better choice for most practitioners. numeric system will serve you well. Cost is the primary reason—folders When “John Jones” calls about the Files and Client Relations are usually cheaper and easily fit lease agreement you are drafting, a When you are setting up a file for into existing desk drawers, cabinets, numeric or alpha-numeric system yourself, don’t forget about the and bookcases. In addition, filing will help you distinguish his real client. Giving the client his or her into folders is usually faster and less property file from the corporate, own file folder in which to place the of a struggle. Binders work best for litigation, and tax matters also signed fee agreement and other trial notebooks or other special attributable to “Jones.” correspondence and materials he or document organization projects. (If she will be receiving from you you use binders, recycle the
  2. 2. MANAGING YOUR PRACTICE promotes positive client relations. 9 Annual Reports Client The folder should include one of 10 Officers 10 Other Injury Claims your business cards so the client 11 Securities Issued (Workers comp, prior always has your address, phone, 12 Securities to be Issued injury claims or suits) fax, e-mail, etc. readily available. 13 Audits/Financial 11 Economic Damages Providing clients with a folder helps Statements (Medical bills, funeral to keep them organized and lessens 14a Taxes—Federal expenses) the chance that documents will be 14b Taxes—State 12 Lost Wages/Tax lost or misplaced. Instruct the client 14c Taxes—Local Returns/Personnel to bring his or her file to each of 14d Taxes—Foreign Records your meetings, and if appropriate, 15a Regulatory Agencies— use the file to record notes or Federal Damages--Miscellaneous questions for future appointments. 15b Regulatory Agencies— 13a Plaintiff’s Insurance State (UIM/PIP/Health) Sample Practice Area File 15c Regulatory Agencies— 13b Liens (Health, PIP, Local Hospital, Physician, Structures 15d Regulatory Agencies— Comp, AFS, Medicare) Does your office have a standard Foreign 13c Authorizations subfile structure for each practice 16a Real Property Owned 13d Settlement/Mediation area? Creating such a framework 16b Real Property Leased 13e Litigation Expenses ensures consistency—files are set 17a Acquisitions and up the same way each time—and Mergers—completed Pleadings makes filing and retrieval of 17b Acquisitions and 14a Pleadings (Trial notices documents more efficient. Start by Mergers—future and all pleadings, looking for common patterns in 18a Equipment Contracts— including discovery) existing files. Do you find yourself company 14b Legal Research setting up subfolders for 18b Employment Contracts— 15 Produced to Plaintiff (All Correspondence, Pleadings, and company documents produced to Legal Research in each of your 18c Other Contracts—to plaintiff and defendant’s client files? This could be the company response to plaintiff’s beginning of your firm’s subfile 18d Contracts from Company request(s) for production; framework. To implement a 19 Trade Association copies of relevant framework for your filing system, 20 Pension and Profit documents should be create an index. To ensure that Sharing—current cross-filed in appropriate folders are always organized in the 21 Personnel Forms places, e.g., medical proper order for each file, assign 22 Labor Agreements— records to subfile 8, numbers to each of your subfiles or current personnel records to file sections. Here are sample Labor casesii 23 subfile 12.) structures for three types of files: 16a Defendant’s Discovery corporate, personal injury, and (separate defendants) Personal Injury domestic relations. (Includes defendant’s Subfile requests and plaintiff’s Corporate Number Name of Subfile responses. Correspondence that Subfile Investigation constitutes a request or Number Name of Subfile 1 Witnesses/Investigative reply to discovery should Reports be copied and cross-filed 1 Correspondence and 2 Police Reports/Police to the appropriate General—this year Photos discovery subfile; original 2 Correspondence and 3 Defendants (Corporate) correspondence should be General—last year 4 Technical Research placed in the main client 3 Board of Directors 5 Medical Research file.) Minutes 6 Experts/Consultants 16b Produced to Defendant 4 Directors Meetings, 7 Demonstrative Evidence (Make a working copy of General (Photos, sketches, repair defendant’s request, bind 5 Articles and By-laws estimates, maps, audio or all documents produced in (current) videotapes, etc.) response, file here.) 6 Corporate Documents/ Damages Incorporations 8 Plaintiff’s Treating 7 Shareholder Minutes Physicians 8 Shareholder Meetings, 9 Client’s Diary/Notes from general (this year)
  3. 3. MANAGING YOUR PRACTICE Trial received, documents produced, and the date of production.vii Expanded 17 Pretrial (Motions in Bookstore, Non-Members Store, then to Limine, witness list, trial file pockets are used for bulky Filing Basics. ii schedule) items. How to Manage Your Law Office, Altman Weil, § 10.03, pp. 10-26, 10-27 18 Trial Memo and (Matthew Bender & Co., Inc. Rel. 22- Evidentiary Memos Trial exhibits are organized in 7/95 Pub. 356.) 19 Voir Dire similar fashion. An exhibit index iii Personal injury subfile structure 20 Exhibits tracks the items offered and adapted courtesy of Linda J. Rudnick, admitted into evidence.viii 21 Opening Statement Esq., Beaverton, Oregon. 22 Lay Witnesses/Liability iv Domestic relations file structure and Damage To successfully implement a supplied courtesy of Beth Mason & 23 Plaintiff’s Expert framework for your subfiles, create Associates, Beaverton, Oregon, with Witnesses a master subfile index. To ensure special thanks to James Jensen. The pressboard file folders described in the 24 Offers of Proof that folders are always organized in article are available from Oxford 25 Defendant’s Case-in- the proper order for each file, assign (Oxford Classifolders, number 1257) or Chief subfile numbers to each of your Smead (Smead UPC 14075-C402-5A- 26 Motions for Directed subfile names, as in the above 2D). Verdict examples. v The pleading index is a word 27 Closing processing document with four columns: 28 Rebuttal Pulling the Whole Package Number (the chronological number 29 Jury Instructions and Together assigned to each pleading document as it Verdictiii is received); Party (the name of the party In addition to the above, effective who generated the pleading); Pleading file management also involves (title of the pleading); and Date. All establishing and following file Domestic Relations pleadings are assigned a number, filed This sample system uses a opening and file closing procedures behind an 8.5 x 11 divider sheet with the combination of file folders, three- and using tools such as client intake appropriate numbered tab, and added to ring binders and expandable file forms, fee agreements, engagement, the index. The tab sets are from Kleer- pockets. The file folders are made nonengagement and disengagement Fax and come in sets of 25. (Kleer-Fax of durable pressboard and come letters, and a file closing checklist. #8000 series, stock number 81170.) The index is best set up in a table. with two interior dividers, providing Many sample forms, letters, and vi Deposition transcripts are stored in a a total of 6 filing tabs within the checklists are available at no charge manila envelope which is hole punched folder to file documents.iv from the Professional Liability to fit in the file. This portion of the file Fund, www.osbplf.org. We also may also contain Requests for File Folder Contents encourage practitioners from all Production. firms—small or large—who have vii All discovery documents are tabbed, File Folder office system questions to contact assigned a number, filed by number, and Tab Contents our practice management team. added to the index. Because binders are Pleading Indexv used to organize discovery, the Kleer- 1 Office and phone consultations are Fax tab sets are three-hole punched. Tabs free and confidential. For more viii The exhibit index is a word Pleadings information about the PLF’s processing document with five columns: 2 Correspondence practice management program, Petitioner, Respondent, Description, (Including fax transmittals contact the PLF at 503-639-6911 or Offered, Admitted. This allows the and confirmations) 800-452-1639. attorney to track each exhibit as it is 3 Reports (Custody reports, offered and to note whether it is reports from physicians, The author is a lawyer and practice admitted. The Petitioner and etc.) management advisor with the Respondent columns are used to note the Depositionsvi exhibit numbers (1-100 for the 4 Professional Liability Fund. petitioner, 101 and up for the 5 Client’s Notes (Any respondent.) As with the pleading index, material received from the i The Association for Information the exhibit index is best set up as a table. client) Management Professionals (ARMA 6 Attorney’s Notes (Notes International) is a tremendous resource This article originally appeared in the generated by firm for those interested in the latest in record OSB Bulletin June 2000; updated April attorneys or staff) management information and 2007. technology. 4200 Somerset Drive, Suite 215, Prairie Village, Kansas 66208. Color-coded three-ring notebooks (913) 341-0339. Publications available are used to manage discovery and to non-members include: Alphabetic trial exhibits. Discovery documents Filing Rules, Filing Procedures—A are filed in two binders, one for the Guideline, and Numeric Filing—A petitioner, and one for the Guideline. From the home page, respondent. A discovery index in www.arma.org, click on Publications each binder tracks documents and follow the links to ARMA

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