What is your law firm’s filing setup? Is it still a big room full of meticulously organized and labeled physical files in the office? A high-tech digital solution? Maybe you’re in transition or decided on a hybrid option. Whether you’re considering a transition to a digital file system or work with digital files daily, here are some best practices to optimize your law firm files.
Why Paperless Law Firm Files?
There are so many reasons to have a good paperless filing system. It saves you and your staff time searching for the information you need. It allows all of your current and historical files to be organized, trackable and searchable. You can improve your firm’s output by creating standardized templates and precedents. It also gives your attorneys freedom and access files from anywhere, be they working from home, at court, or with a client.
It also provides peace of mind knowing that you can track your law firm files to see who has checked them out or made the most recent changes. Finally, it modernizes your workflow. Clients and new associates alike now expect this as standard practice.
Safety and Security
- Create user-based permissions for each client folder. This provides you with security in two ways. First, you are safer from cyber attacks. In case a user mistakenly downloads malware, it will not corrupt all of your files. Secondly, it provides informational security that firm members do not have full access to all client and case information, which will strengthen client trust and your firm’s reputation.
- Set up and utilize the version history features of your filing system. This can eliminate issues when you find that a document has been changed or overwritten.
- Host all client files in one central place on your server that is separate from your program files. This not only helps from an organizational standpoint but provides an important security feature. In an instance where a program file on your server is corrupted or attacked, your client files are separate and safe.
- Create a standard organization system per client. For instance, have one main file for each client with standardized subfolders for signed agreements, discovery, meeting notes, etc. By creating a universal organizational structure, new attorneys and staff will know where to find documents and where to save new files.
- Establish a standard file naming convention with dates so that from client to client and case to case, everyone in the firm knows what terms to search on. It is important to also add the dates so you know you are looking at the right document for the right case. If you have a client you have worked with for years, it is easy to have multiple forms of the same document based on different cases or years, and you want to make sure you are using the correct one.
- Separate open and closed client and case files. This not only stops your filing system from becoming cluttered and inefficient, but it also ensures that no current files are “lost” by being saved to a folder for a client’s closed case.
- As with anything in your firm, it will only be as effective if it becomes standard practice. Therefore it is important to train your staff on how to use the filing system, your naming conventions, and user permission settings. Make training a part of the onboarding process and keep up with that training quarterly to refresh everyone and update them on any changes to the processes.
- Like any filing system, it needs ongoing maintenance. It will get messy, so it is crucial to appoint a few people to be the system’s caretakers. These folks should routinely take time to review the files, fix any problems and inconsistencies and reorganize. By keeping up with a schedule, you can ensure that it never gets out of hand.
We recognize that your firm’s files will never be completely paperless. The courts will always need documents in physical form but we hope these tips help your firm’s digital filing system become one of your firm’s best assets.
Your clients and your team expect easy-to-use, reliable, up-to-date technology solutions they can access from anywhere. Contact FSA Consulting for a review of your file systems today.