How do you find and manage documents? Do you use shared cloud storage, or manila folders lining the office? Maybe you collect files in your email inbox or desktop and hope you can find what you need later.
Everyone has an approach, but some document management practices are better than others. If your system has you spending more time searching for files than actually using them, it’s time to find a better way.
Here, we cover some “do’s and don’ts” of file sharing and storage for Attorneys, Paralegals, and other legal professionals. These simple guidelines can help you and your firm manage documents better while saving time.
Don’t Use Your Inbox as Your Primary Document Repository
It’s very common to send and serve documents over email (even when it’s not the best option). While your email inbox is often the first place you encounter a file, it should rarely be the document’s permanent storage location. Here are the main reasons why:
- Security: Email has some valid security concerns, and keeping a document with sensitive client information in your inbox is not appropriate long-term.
- Searchability: Many email services have tools built for finding documents/attachments within your inbox. But those functions are secondary to making a good communication platform. Dedicated document storage almost always has better search tools and storage organization options (folder-styled organization, ability to rename files, extra storage space, etc.).
- File Naming Structure: You are at the mercy of your fellow senders regarding document titles, email headlines, and other factors that make inbox searches less reliable. Not every client will name documents well or use descriptive headlines, and that will cost you time finding files later.
- Administrative Annoyances: If nothing else, it’s annoying. Making sure you reply to the right people in the thread, bcc’ing other interested parties, forwarding messages when a document comes in, and other tasks are all bite-sized chores avoidable with different storage options.
Email is a great way to communicate, but it shouldn’t be the primary storage for all your personal and work documents. Despite its disadvantages though, it’s a common file destination. If you see yourself or your law firm relying on email this way, it’s worth considering other options.
Don’t Rely on Physical Storage (if Possible)
For those that rely heavily on physical storage, it may be time for a digital alternative. Not only will digitizing your file storage allow you to access your files from anywhere (such as from home or in the court), but it will almost certainly save you time.
Searching a filing cabinet is less efficient than most digital counterparts. Digital storage solutions generally have search functions and other amenities that make finding documents less time-consuming. Also, digital storage saves you from printing copies, lugging files across the office, putting them away manually, and disposing of them safely when the time comes.
There are many reasons groups default to physical storage. Some people prefer reading from paper, and some law firms are committed to physical court filing (although that’s a practice worth reconsidering if your jurisdiction allows for eFiling).
In some cases, courts require physical filing, such as for documents with signatures (in fact, missing physical signatures was a common rejection reason in our 2022 eFiling rejections study). But it’s possible to store most of your documents digitally on your end for the long-term, and store the physical documents as needed (or even just the pages with physical writing, like a signature page).
Physical storage has major efficiency tradeoffs that are getting harder and harder to justify as a go-to method. There will be scenarios where a physical document is necessary, but that’s not every document or every page. When you can, consider keeping the documents digital only.
Do Consider How Others Can Access Documents
Need to update a document template? Maybe you’re fixing a rejected document for refiling? Wouldn’t it be nice if your colleagues could easily access the latest versions of these documents as well?
When editing or creating documents, keep in mind how others will access them once you finish. For many firms, that means saving files to a form of shared storage like a Document Management System. These allow you to share documents without emailing a new copy and ensure everyone has the latest version. Or even if you do need to email a document, consider just sending a link to the storage location (such as a OneDrive or Google Docs link). This prevents the recipient from finding the wrong version of a document later if you ever update it.
With File & ServeXpress, you can easily share legal files with your law firm. Anything you or a colleague files or uploads can be accessed firm-wide. This ensures that all parties connected to the filing have up-to-date documents and can retrieve them whenever or wherever needed.
Do Follow Retention Requirements When Managing Case Documents
Different jurisdictions have different requirements for document retention. These rules can complicate things when clearing out hard drive space, deleting emails, or making room in file cabinets.
File & ServeXpress makes retention as easy as possible for our law firm users. Any document uploaded to our system is permanently saved at no cost (besides those associated with the actual transaction). By filing or serving with File & ServeXpress, you’re provided permanent document storage for the entire mandatory retention period, guaranteed.
File & ServeXpress Helps Law Firms with Legal File Management
File & ServeXpress provides law firms nationwide easy access to uploaded documents anywhere they can use a browser. You can learn more about our Document Management services by clicking the link below.