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Legal Filing Systems: Example of Organizing Your Files in 2022

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The importance of effective legal office filing systems for law firms can be explained in several ways. Law office client file organization and accessibility are essential to the success of your law firm. Having an organized filing system makes finding and obtaining legal documents simple. Having a well-organized filing system increases your productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness.

But how do you create a law firm filing system that is effective?

Throughout this post, we will discuss a few key pointers that will help you organize your active files effectively in 2022. You’ll learn what makes a law firm filing system effective as well as how a paperless filing system can help your firm level up, making your job a lot easier!

Necessity of An Effective Legal Filing System

How many times have you been frustrated trying to find a document among a clutter of files? Has it ever been difficult to find a file in time for a client or court appointment? You can avoid such situations. To do your best legal work and stay organized and save time, you need an effective legal filing system.

Switching to a more efficient legal filing system will save you time if your law firm’s filing system lacks structure or is still dealing with a lot of paper. You will be able to access documents more easily in the short term. This will enable you to work remotely, grow your firm without having to worry about physical storage space, and implement further time-saving measures, like electronic signatures, in the long run.

6 Steps to Better Document Management for Small Law Firms

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1. Identify Your Firm’s Key Documents

This is an important first step. In most law firms, key documents are used every day, perhaps even several times a day. The first step in improving your document management tools is identifying those forms and paperwork that are heavily trafficked, and then organizing them. Create a list of how frequently they are used and what steps need to be taken to complete them.

2. Create Digital Templates For Your Key Documents

Step two is to create updated templates for each of the essential documents you identified. Take this opportunity to improve and update the templates, taking stock of wording, design, fonts, and the information on each form. If you’ve completed your new digital templates, place them in a single folder so they’re ready to use whenever you need them. Maintain consistency within your firm by communicating to all appropriate staff where to find the most current template.

3. Allow Clients To Provide Digital Signatures

The use of digital signatures by businesses is increasingly widespread due to their security and confidentiality. Realtors, doctors, and dozens of other professionals require digital signatures from clients as a means of expediting the administrative process and requiring less face time with clients. You can process and digitally file paperwork in just a few easy steps after receiving completed and signed documents by email.

4. Establish Centralized Digital Records For Each Client

After you create your digital template folder, try to keep every existing client file organized. Taking the time to do this now will save you a great deal of time in the future. Imagine having a client on the phone and knowing where to look to answer all their questions and provide all the information they need to know. Simply create a folder for each client that includes everything from contacts and case information to contracts and paperwork. Make sure everyone who is dealing with that matter can access the client’s folder and organize emails and documents accordingly.

5. Organize Everything With Software

Step 4 may overwhelm you if you don’t have the right software. A law firm-specific case management tool can help. Good law firm management software enables you to preload templates, provides a cloud-based server so that your team can ‌work anywhere, and streamlines client communication. In addition to preloading templates, the software can organize all emails and client information. The software eliminates the need to constantly look for emails, documents, and phone numbers. It will be easy to access every detail about every matter in one place.

6. Create A Standard Process For Document Management Across The Firm

Make a plan to get your entire law firm on the same page, whether you’re working on digital document organization yourself or using law firm management software. You should make sure that everyone uses the same system and operates it in the same way, from the office manager to your senior partners. Maintain consistency across your team by communicating your document management process.

How to Manage Paper Files

Before You Develop Your Legal Filing System

You will save a lot of time and hassle if you prepare before you begin your filing system. 

  • Determine What You Have. Take an inventory of all your files and sort them if your legal file system is not organized. Then you can develop a system that works for you. If necessary, you can categorize them based on correspondence, motions, pleadings, or even client names.
  • Get Rid Of Old Files. If you have old documents or files that you are thinking about getting rid of, check your jurisdiction’s retention rules. You should devise a document retention policy for your firm once you are clear about your legal and ethical responsibilities. Outline the rules and policies for determining what must be kept and for how long and how closed client files will be disposed of when appropriate. If possible, reducing the number of unnecessary files will give you more space to organize the files that you do need to keep. If you are unsure, contact a privacy lawyer for legal advice.

How to Organize Law Firm Files

You can use the following questions for guidance as you develop a better system for organizing paper files:

1) Is Your Storage Space Sufficient?

How much space does your office have to accommodate all the documents and storing files?​​ How to organize law firm files in one space? Will you need more storage furniture and/or more office space? 

The most important piece of furniture is a large cabinet (or series of cabinets) where you can hang your files. However, this can result in space shortage issues quickly. What kind of cabinets or drawers do you need if you need more furniture? Will you be able to rearrange what you already have? 

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2) Keep an Eye on The Future

As your law firm grows, you’ll need more storage space to accommodate additional documents and files.

3) What Will You Call Your Files?

Prior to renaming your files, decide on a file naming system. By categorizing your files, you will be able to find them more effectively.

The arrangement of files within a law firm can be based on the client’s name, the matter number, the date the file was created, or the name of the lawyer. Be mindful that you’re not the only person needing access to files. Therefore, ‌use a file naming scheme that is consistent, logical, and user-friendly.

4) What Are Your Plans For Identifying Files?

Decide on a system for identifying and labeling your files once you have decided how you will name them. To make paper filing more manageable, clear identifiers (such as color-coded labels) and expanding files can be helpful. 

5) Is It Possible  to Go Digital?

Consider using our law office filing system example to create standard operating procedures. The cost of physical file management will only increase over time as you run into space and furniture issues. The cost of office supplies such as folders and labels can add up too.

Lawyers today are less likely to use paper files efficiently and effectively. Particularly during a pandemic or natural disaster, remote work could be necessary and a digital legal filing system is the most efficient filing system for any law firm.

Why Should You Switch to a Paperless File Management?

A paperless legal filing system has a lot of benefits for law firms. From the moment you take on a new client to the end of the case, it benefits legal firms in multiple ways.

1. Client Retention And Onboarding Made Easy

Using a retainer with an electronic signature eliminates the need to scan documents for record-keeping. Following the signing of documents, you can quickly send copies to all parties involved.

2. Automation of Workflows

A personalized email for each client can be automated if a paperless system is set up correctly. You can easily access and send information about their case. Intake forms and document request forms can be automatically sent. When you automate and manage delegated tasks, you’ll save a lot of time, and the work will no longer have to be done manually by your paralegals.

3. Quick Access to Information

All the documents can be scanned into your file management software. By using text-searchable PDFs, you will be able to locate information within a client’s file in just seconds. This can be a key factor when you’re in a meeting with the opposing counsel, and you can instantly pull up a document or factual reference.

4. Improve Client Service

Your clients will be better served if you use a paperless legal file management system. You can get your work done in half the time. During a busy workday, for example, if a client calls you about their case file, you can quickly type in a query rather than searching through the filing cabinets.

5. Access to Information 24 Hours a Day

Last but not least, the ability to work from anywhere, at any time, is a huge advantage. You could be boarding a plane half a world away and you would be able to answer questions from clients wherever they are.

It is simpler than you think to run a paperless practice. Going paperless gives you more flexibility than ever before.

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Conclusions

A good legal filing system can make a huge impact on your law firm’s productivity, efficiency, and future profits. 

Taking the time to organize your filing system will undoubtedly help improve your law firm’s operations. Investing in a paperless system to ensure your law firm’s success will pay off in the long run. If your firm’s files are paperless, you have the flexibility to work from anywhere, and you can search, access, and collaborate on legal documents quickly and easily.

Article by Megan Thompson

Megan Thompson is a legal writer at Lawrina. Megan writes about different law practice areas, legal innovations, and shares her knowledge about her legal practice. As a graduate of the American University's Washington College of Law she is an expert of law in Lawrina's team and has a slight editing touch to all content that is published on the website.

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