When reviewing many Office File Management software packages, we are always surprised by the number of extra-price packages that "automatically generates a status number" at the top of the list of features as if something was difficult to do, or even impressive as a package feature. Also, most of these packages simply create a 6 digit number and start at 000001 and then go to 000002 and so on and do not allow you to customize.
We suggest that case numbers are symbols that tell you much more than the simple number, but at the same time, they should have a simple format so you can easily create them and read them quickly.
Let's take a look at the simple and useful case number:
Let's break this slightly:
- 20100310 is history. Use the down date format because it is easy to find cases using the time frame reference. The descending dates are arranged starting from the year, then the month, then the day, so in the above example, the case began on 10 March 2010.
- Next, is a two-letter symbol of your choice which indicates what kind of this is the case. In the previous example, the word "FL" refers to "family law". Some suggestions are: CL – Contract Law, PP – Product / Process, CD – Criminal Defense, etc. You can skip this if you practice only one kind of law.
- Your Sub-Code is a second two-character code that demonstrates the type of state. In the Family Code example above, "CC" refers to child custody. Create a list of applicable subfolders and keep them in a "reference file" with your case type codes from # 2.
- Use the initials of the client as part of your case number Optional depending on the sensitivity of the case and the client's desire not to be identified. In our example, we created the name "Jane Smith" and used JS. We certainly do not recommend using the customer name in the case number.
- If you have a client that may provide multiple instances, put the actual number of the case for that client in parentheses. In this example, this will be the ninth case of Jane Smith. If this is one case with little chance of duplicating the work of this client, you will not need to put any numbers in the end.
Hints and Tips:
- When creating a case file number, use it when naming word processor files or spreadsheets so that everything can be searched and / or invoked using the state number. Also, type the number on any folder and use it on labels that may move on CD / DVD, cassette tapes, evidence boxes, etc.
- Renaming your computer files also makes it easy to search where most systems will allow you to search for part of the file name using a type of "wild card" such as asterisk *. For example, if you want to see a list of all family law cases in 2010, enter the 2010 * FL * .doc search string (if you're looking for Microsoft Word® files). Not only that, but will simply display it as the file, and it will automatically display in chronological order depending on the state of its number only.
- Instead of buying complex and overpriced software packages, you can easily use a program that might come with your computer like the word processor and spreadsheet above, and the Calendar / Contact program such as Microsoft Outlook®.
Then, to learn more about case management for paralegals and lawyers visit: www.theattorneycasefile.com.
(Copyright 2010 – Paul Purcell Authorized to share this article provided that all parts remain intact.)