Legal records filings are a major aspect of a law firm’s day-to-day operations. Each file generated for a client must be carefully stored (sometimes for years) for future reference. While a law office filing system has long been the traditional method of legal document management, it can be cumbersome to manage and make retrieving an important file difficult when it’s lost in an avalanche of paper.

The most efficient and cost-effective way to manage a law office filing system today is by having a paperless legal document management process. By managing legal files in the cloud, firms can securely store and access important client files from anywhere.

Moving decades of legal documents into the digital age may seem like a daunting task. To simplify the process, we’ve compiled five steps to creating a streamlined law office filing system.

  1. Check Local Retention Laws
  2. Take Stock of Your Firm’s Current Legal Records
  3. Outline Your Law Office Filing System
  4. Opt for Automated Legal Document Management
  5. Implementing a Law Office Filing System

Step #1: Check Local Retention Laws

It’s a lawyer’s responsibility to protect their client’s personal information and sensitive records. By law, legal records need to be saved for a certain number of years based on the legal document retention rules in the firm’s state.

A legal records system is only as good as the data stored in it, so before a firm even begins to set up legal document storage, it’s necessary to check state and local laws to make sure the firm stays in compliance.

person using laptop with PracticePanther legal document management software

Step #2: Take Stock of Your Firm’s Current Legal Records 

Before legal records can be migrated to a digital platform, it’s essential to take stock of current legal documents. Sort through the mountains of paper and decide what legal files need to make the move.

This is where you’ll want to reference the previous step to sort out any files that are beyond your state’s retention laws and can be transitioned out of your firm.

In addition to getting rid of old documents and files, it’s good to set aside legal files currently in use, current clients, and active projects. Doing so helps train legal staff to follow legal records policies and standardizes the process.

Finally, legal records should be set aside that a lawyer has no legal responsibility to retain, but wants to preserve for legal, historical, or other reasons. These may include company files from acquisitions and mergers, specific legal projects, or client data.

Step #3: Outline Your Law Office Filing System

Your firm’s legal record system should include metadata where each legal file is indexed and tagged with specific information that allows legal staff to easily find and access documents. File titles should be clear and include keywords for quick retrieval. This system can be unique to the firm, but make sure it is clearly laid out for legal staff to use.

There should also be a backup plan to track document migration and reduce the risk of data loss.

Step #4: Opt for Automated Legal Document Management

The biggest decision in digitizing legal records is choosing the right system. With their firm’s needs at top of their mind, lawyers can identify what features and benefits they need most. However, in most cases, digital legal records and document management systems should at least include the following:

  • Remote access across multiple types of devices (in addition to computers) such as smartphones and tablets
  • The ability to organize and house all client details and data in a singular location
  • Custom tagging to track trends, cases, and other important information
  • The ability to import legal files, create new legal documents on the fly and manage document workflow
  • Integrations with popular platforms like Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive, and
  • Templates to make document creation go even faster
  • Collaboration capabilities to keep colleagues and clients on the same page

Practice management software like PracticePanther makes legal records management easier by streamlining your firm’s legal document management. With innovative features and an easy-to-use platform, managing your legal documents will stop being a collective headache and start becoming a collective effort.

Person using cellphone with PracticePanther legal document management software

Step #5: Implementing a Law Office Filing System

It’s time to put legal records management into practice.

Start by identifying legal staff, legal assistants, and lawyers who will be responsible for managing legal documents in the new system. Allow them to become familiar with the legal record storage system step-by-step. Make sure they’re aware of what legal files need to be saved and how this process works.

Then schedule a legal records training session with legal staff where they learn how legal files will be filtered, tagged, and organized. This is a large part of legal records management, so make sure legal staff gets the necessary information to ensure all legal documents are identified and managed.

And finally, once everyone is prepped and ready to go, pick a date to have staff begin digitizing the legal records system once and for all.

As the legal industry becomes more digital and client expectations evolve, law firms will need to continue adopting modern processes for managing their practice. PracticePanther helps law firms work from anywhere by offering cloud-based solutions for crucial business operations beyond legal document management, including legal billing, case management, eSignature, and more, on one platform.

If you’re ready to get organized and create processes that will give you time back in your day, you can book a custom demo to learn more about the many features PracticePanther has to offer.

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