Legal office employees face various file organizational challenges, as legal documents usually must be kept for a length of time specified under local and state laws. Failure to keep the records can result in fines and penalties and slow down the workflow, so a legal office must be organized to keep paperwork from becoming a mess.
Condense, Separate and Purge
Current files, such as paperwork for an ongoing case, should be easier to access than old or unused files. Set up a filing cabinet or shelf closer to the main work area in the office for ongoing files and move older paperwork to an unused office space, such as a filing area or an empty room. Box and label older files instead of using a filing cabinet or shelf to save space. Filing boxes are available for purchase, but empty bulk blank paper boxes also work. Break down large files into smaller file folders, but rubber band or tie the smaller files together. Review old files to see what papers no longer need to be kept. Shred and destroy files that no longer need to be kept, but create a list for reference. Double-check local laws and paperwork dates to avoid shredding anything that must still be kept.
Create a Unique System
Set up a filing system that works with the type of files being organized. Alphabetical or numerical filing is traditional, but should be tweaked to fit with the work being done. For example, a tax lawyer's office should file by both name and tax year for faster access, while a divorce attorney's office would benefit from cross-referencing files by the names of both spouses.
Color code files and papers by type. Use colored paper tabs and folders. A legal office that handles different types cases, such as personal injury and medical malpractice, can code by case type, such as using one color for auto cases and another for medical. Color coding by case type makes finding a misplaced file easier if different case types are stored on different shelves or in separate cabinets.
Electronic filing, when files are scanned in and stored digitally, saves office space and is easier to manage than paper filing. Legal papers must be kept for the number of years stated in local laws, so space for and organization of paper files becomes a problem over time, especially if the business expands. An electronic filing option allows for the creation of a search system so employees can find documents with the click of a button. Original files can be stored off-site and out of the way to comply with local regulations.