Paperless Law Office: File Structure and File Naming Protocols
After deciding to go paperless, or to get everyone at your firm on board, you’ll need to create a set of procedures or protocols. Andrew Kucera, who took his firm paperless, provided a set of protocols for our popular Paperless Law Office E-Book. He has since updated them. Here are the updated File Structure & File Naming Conventions or Protocols. See, also: Updated Paperless Law Office Protocols.

File Structure Protocols

The Dropbox (or other file storage unit such as your legal practice management system) file structure protocol is as follows:

  1. CLIENT FILES
    • [client name]
      • [matter name]
        1. ADMIN
          • Anything that BKC and ASK will probably never need to see or use goes here
          • Examples: labels, etc.
        2. ATTY NOTES AND RESEARCH
          • Handwritten notes from client consults
          • Westlaw research (statutes, cases, etc.)
        3. CLIENT DOCS
          • Any documents that we obtain from the client, including electronic copies of original client documents
        4. CORRESPONDENCE
          • All letters, faxes, emails, phone transcriptions/logs
        5. COSTS
          • All costs that may be recoverable by our client
        6. DISCOVERY
          • One separate folder for each independently represented party(ies)
          • Within each party’s folder is the discovery propounded by that party and the responses thereto
          • There is a separate folder for each deposition, containing the notice/subpoena, correspondence regarding the depo, examination outlines, exhibits, etc.
        7. DRAFTS
          • All draft documents remain here
          • Final documents, whether created electronically, or printed and scanned, go elsewhere
          • Mostly MS Word docs
        8. PLEADINGS
          • All documents that are filed with the court
          • Should all be in PDF format
          • Should not be any MS Word docs
        9. TRIAL PREP
          • Copies of all documents that will be used as evidence at trial

A matter is a new issue to be resolved for a new or existing client. A matter may be any of the following: (a) a legal issue that needs to be researched and a memorandum drafted for the client; (b) a new case filed for or against the client in Federal or State Court or before an administrative agency (i.e., Department of Fair Employment and Housing or the Bureau of Real Estate); (c) drafting a contract or some other legal document; (d) drafting or responding to a demand letter; or (e) etc.

All new matters should be saved in Dropbox in the “Client Files” architecture. The matter should be saved in the file naming the client (for example Client Files/Shawn Patty). The matter should be saved/named as the name of the lawsuit or the property address. For example, the Shawn Patty matter is a lawsuit versus Robert Radtke and others. Therefore, the matter would be saved in a sub-file and named “Patty v Radtke.” To maintain consistency, the Client Name and the Matter Name should match exactly what is entered into Rocket Matter.

On matters that are going to be litigated, each matter folder should have at least the following sub-folders: (a) Pleadings; (b) Correspondence; (c) Drafts; (d) Client Documents; (e) Discovery; (f) Attorney Notes and Research; (g) Costs; and (h) Admin.

On matters that are not going to be litigated, each matter folder should have at least the following sub-folders: (a) Correspondence; (b) Drafts; (c) Client Documents; (d) Attorney Notes and Research; and (e) Admin.

Thus, when entering a new litigated matter for a new client, one would: (1) create a new client folder in Client Files; (2) create a new matter folder in the new client folder; and (3) create five to eight folders in the new matter folder.

File Naming Protocol

paperless law office office protocols

Explanations:

DATE:

  • The above date format cause all files within a folder to be sorted chronologically, by default
  • Use the following date, in order:
    • The date filed, if the document is stamped filed, or otherwise known to have been filed with the court or another entity
    • The date on the Proof of Service, if there is a POS attached
    • The date executed, if the document is executed by a person
    • The date identified in the document as the date of the document, if so identified
    • The date created, if none of the above apply (usually for documents drafted by us)
    • The date received, if none of the above apply (usually for documents received by us)

DESCRIPTION:

  • Use the following abbreviations:
    • Addl for Additional
    • Amend for Amended
    • Atty for Attorney
    • CMC for Case Management Conference
    • Dec for Declaration
    • Dem for Demurrer
    • Depo for Deposition
    • Disco for Discovery
    • Doc for Document(s)
    • Evid for Evidence or Evidentiary
    • FAC for First Amended Complaint
    • SAC for Second Amended Complaint
    • TAC for Third Amended Complaint
    • 4AC for Fourth Amended Complaint (5AC, 6AC, etc.)
    • FACC for First Amended Cross-Complaint
    • SACC for Second Amended Cross-Complaint (TACC, 4ACC, 5ACC, etc.)
    • Frogs for Form Interrogatories
    • “iso” for In Support Of
    • Jmt for Judgment
    • LMMO for Law & Motion Minute Order
    • LF for Letter From
    • LT for Letter To
    • Memo for Memorandum
    • MSA for Motion for Summary Adjudication
    • MSC for Mandatory Settlement Conference
    • MSJ for Motion for Summary Judgment
    • Mtn for Motion
    • Obj for Objection(s)
    • Opp for Opposition
    • P&A for Points and Authorities
    • PDC for Pretrial Discovery Conference
    • POS for Proof of Service
    • “re” for Regarding
    • Req for Request(s)
    • RFAs for Requests for Admissions
    • RFJN for Request for Judicial Notice
    • RFPs for Requests for Production of Documents
    • Sprogs for Special Interrogatories
    • Tent for Tentative
    • “w” for With
    • XC for Cross-Complant
  • Do not abbreviate the following:
    • Notice, Order, Reply, Compel, Trial, Complaint, Answer, Strike, Set

AUTHOR/RECIPIENT

  • Use “by” for author of drafts and pleadings; “from” and “to” are not necessary
  • Use “from” and “to” for correspondence
    • Always omit our firm, so a letter from us to Paul Franco is “LT Franco” and a letter from Paul Franco to us is “LF Franco”

REGARDING

  • Include, if necessary, a VERY SHORT description of the subject matter of the document
  • Usually only necessary for correspondence

SUFFIX

  • If the document is stamped, use the nature of the stamp to identify the document in capital letters
    • For conformed copies of court filed documents, use “FILED”
    • For documents issued by court such as writs, use “ISSUED”
    • For documents received-stamped by sheriff and others, use “RECEIVED”