File Tracking solution for Law firms

A Guide to Law Firm File Tracking and File Location Systems and Court File Tracking, DA File Tracking and Prosecutor File Tracking

Law firms handle a large volume of sensitive documents on a daily basis, including client files, legal briefs, contracts, and other critical information. Effectively managing and organizing this data is crucial for the firm’s operations and client service. However, many law firms still rely on outdated systems or manual processes for document management, which can lead to inefficiencies, security risks, and compliance issues.

A file tracking system is a powerful synthesis of practical records management principles, software and technology that enhances the way that law firms, Courts, DA’s and Prosecutors handle documents. Utilizing a comprehensive document tracking system, legal practices can streamline their operations, ensure compliance with regulations and industry standards, and, achieve efficiencies that reduce costs and improve customer service.  The primary components that are available for best practices management of legal records include:

  • Legal Records File Folder Indexing and Labeling
  • Legal Files Barcode Tracking Systems
  • Legal Files RFID-Barcode Tracking, Location and Security Systems
  • Finding Needed Files right when they are Need
  • Legal Files File Management Software

A primary challenge for the ability of law firms to quickly access needed files, is that many legal practices do not have color-coding of a file’s primary index.  Improving access to files and the ability to Locate ‘missing’ files can be accomplished with software and technology, but, effective indexing and color-coding of physical legal records is just as important.

Files are generally sequenced on open-shelving (“library style shelving”) or in drawer filing cabinets (“lateral or drawer file cabinets”) based on client name, case # or client-matter #:

  • If client name or file ID # is not immediately visible without having to use hands to fan, pull or push folders to locate a file, then the system will always have challenges.  Excessive time is required to pull and refile.  Misfiles happen and are not identifiable.  It takes a lot of time to look at files one-at-a-time in offices when looking for a file that is in-circulation.
  • Folders should be labeled along the top of folders if filed in drawers or along the side of folders if stored in open shelving.  The client name and the folder identification #(s) should be immediately visible with infrequent need to move folders to find the folder being looked-for.
  • Best practices very much relates to color-coding.  Color-coding is based on each digit 0 through 9 for file #’s, and each letter A through Z for file names, having a unique color, for example:

Figure 1: Example Folder Side and Top Tab Labels

Figure 2: Example Side-Tab and Top-Tab ‘Best Practices Law Firm Filing Systems

Ideally files are well organized and indexed, preferably including color-coding.  The next consideration for legal file tracking are the functions of check-in / check-out and inventories.  For staff using legal records, whether a law firm, court, DA, prosecutor or an organizations in-house legal department, their primary consideration as to records is ‘where is the file that I need, and, how can I get it quickly’.  This may be for client support, court proceedings and other purposes for accessing the documents in files that enable staff to do their jobs.  Staff require file management software that enables them to query the database to determine a file’s current Location.  At that point, they can go get the file, or, Request the file from the records management department.  The primary ways to know where files are Located using barcode technology include:

  • Perform check-out and check-out procedures with USB barcode scanner, like a library does it for books, which enables staff to know the Location to which a file was checked-out, including the time and date.  Staff can go get the file, communicate via software messaging from the person needing the file to the person that has the file, or initiating a Request for the records management department to deliver the file.  Ideally, there is a file room and a file clerk that performs check-in/out functions, otherwise self-service check-in/out stations can be used, similar to a library.
  • If check-in/out procedures cannot be utilized fully enough to identify file Locations, then periodic inventories of files-in-circulation can be performed by records management staff, so that the legal records file management system knows the most current file Locations based on the date-time of the most previous file inventory (“file tracing”).  Current file Locations can be determined through a software database query and-or by printing a ‘Current File Folder Locations Report’ after each inventory is concluded, and making that report available within the file room or other areas that staff access files.  If you do not have a file room(s), meaning that files are stored in file cabinets across many different work areas versus a centralized filing system, then file inventories is the only way to know where files are Located at any given point in time.

Figure 3:  Law Firm Barcode File Tracking Systems for Documents, Files and Archives 

The primary difference between barcode law firm file tracking systems and RFID law firm file tracking systems is that barcodes require a human operator from close proximity, whereas RFID radio wave technology enables long-range scanning and passive tracking of file real-time ‘as the files move’.  RFID antennas can be placed at file and archive room doorways to auto-track files that exit or return.  RFID antennas can be placed in-offices, along hallways, at elevators and passage-doorways to track file movements real-time.  RFID antennas and alarms-lights-video can be installed at building exits and building passageways to prevent unauthorized file movements by alarm, flashing lights and voice commands.  Inventory and tracing of files can be done from 20’ versus 10”, and, RFID enables files to be quickly Located with mobile scanners using frequency of beeps, cold-warm-hot color scale and numeric index.

Figure 16: Example RFID File Tracking System Deployment

There are times that files are needed ‘right now’.  A customer is on the phone, an attorney needs to leave for a court hearing and the like.  A primary benefit of RFID radio wave legal file tracking technology is that you can find ‘missing’ or needed files rapidly and dependably utilizing a mobile RFID-barcode.  A mobile RFID scanner has a file detection distance of approximately 20’+.  Point the scanner at files in storage and files-in-offices, and you’ll find the file, that is for sure.  The mobile RFID scanner utilizes frequency of beeps, cold-warm-hot color scale and 0 – 100 numeric index right to needed files.  You can always find the file that you need.

Figure 11: Example Law Firm RFID File Location System

There are a limited number of excellent legal file management software and law firm file tracking systems that exist.  There are quality vendors available that offer fully developed, mature file management software, barcode, RFID and security technology that has been proven for decades for tracking and managing legal file folders.  Determine your vendor of choice and collaborate. That is the key…collaboration is the key:  “What are your requirements and vision, and how can your vendor help you meet and exceed requirements”.

File management software should and can be configured to your exacting requirements.  These are example software functions and screen images:

Figure 8: Example Departmental Dashboard Software Screen

Figure 12: Legal Records File Tracking software Dashboard

You should be looking for a vendor that has out-of-the-box, fully developed file management software that is rapidly configurable to your exacting data, tracking, workflow, security and reporting requirements.  It is best to avoid bespoke ‘custom software’ solutions, for many reasons. 

Vendor software that is already fully developed and proven through prior implementations should include these core capabilities:

  • Templates for documents/folios, files/jackets and archives
  • Grandparent-parent-child database software relationships between archives-folders-documents
  • Ability to integrate with your existing ‘case – client/matter software to import new records to file management tracking system
  • Ability to print labels for documents, files and-or archives with text fields, barcode, color-coding and RFID
  • Ability to check-out and check-in files with computer and USB RFID-barcode scanner
  • Ability to place RFID antennas at file and archive room doorways to auto-track In and Out movements
  • Ability to place USB RFID scanners at desks and work areas to auto-identify files in work areas
  • Ability to deploy RFID antennas at office-work area doorways, at elevators or stairwells, and along hallways or other zones within facilities
  • Ability to deploy RFID antennas, alarm, flashing lights, and voice commands at exit points to prevent unauthorized removals of files from facilities
  • Ability to utilize mobile RFID-barcode scanner to inventory and audit files in-storage and in-circulation, and to Located ‘missing files’
  • Ability to identify and manage all tasks related to documents, files and archives throughout entire document life cycle
  • Ability to link file-types to records classifications to calculate archive and destruction dates for automated retention management
  • Provision of complete Audit Trail records of all documents, files and archives for all movements and events from origination through final disposition
  • Unlimited standard and custom reports
  • Ideally, the software that you implement should be scalable to asset tracking, in case you would like to also track and manage your assets

We have extensive experience working with law firms, prosecutors, DA’s and courts towards to objective of optimized records management.  In our case, it is always about ‘how to know file Locations accurately, locate need files, and get files to the staff that need them as quickly as possible’.  If files are in the right hands at the right times, then operating costs go down substantively, and, customer service is enhanced substantively.  Here is some of our experience:

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Eric Collins
Eric Collins

Eric Collins has been designing and implementing filing systems and records management solutions since 1984. Twice certified by the prestigious Institute of Certified Records Managers (www.icrm.org). Holder of U.S. patent for ‘novel records management solution’. Founder and CEO of TrackingSystemsIoT, a leading tracking system vendor and specializing in file management solutions. Contact eric@trackingsystemsiot.com or 941.375.9437.

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