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Beware the Folders
Lawyers tend to be packrats. Sometimes it seems like firms file every piece of paper or e-mail, no matter how trivial, "just in case". As a result our files, both electronic and physical, tend to overflow with documents and structure.
One thing we need to watch out for though is imposing too much structure.
In e-mail I often see attorneys who go to one of two extremes:
1. No folders at all. They have 17,000 messages in their Inbox and they have a hard time finding anything. Outlook 2007 (and 2010) have great searching capabilities that help, but even so the sheer volume of messages often makes it difficult to locate what we need or even identify what we have.
2. Way too many folders. They have a clients subfolder and subfolders of that for each client and subfolders of those for each matter and subfolders of those for each type of document and subfolders of that broken down by month and.... Pretty quickly their messages to folders ratio gets awfully close to 1. Imagine if your file cabinets were full of folders and each folder had just one piece of paper in it. What a waste!
The trick is to find a happy balance. You need to have enough folders so that you can find things and keep track of them in an orderly fashion. But not so many folders that it's unwieldy.
As a general rule if you can see all of the messages relating to a particular client on a single screen...you shouldn't need any subfolders. So what if they have four different matters, if there are only 17 e-mails related to that client then there's no need to subdivide them into multiple sub-folders.
Give a little thought to you own filing system, both physical and virtual. Does it really make sense to you or did you inherit/implement a system from somebody else. How quickly can you file an e-mail or document you want to save? How hard is it to find that piece of information later?
Remember that your systems exist only to make you more effective and productive. A little review from time to time to make sure they're serving you well can help you be more effective and enjoy your practice more.