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General Filing Question - client name or issue?

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  • General Filing Question - client name or issue?

    I have just started a new position where I am providing advice to a number of clients in relation to particular legal/tax issues. As it is a new position I get to set up a new A -Z filing system (yippee).

    My question is how would you suggest I label the files? by client name or issue. Client name seems too generic as there will potentially be many issues for each client so searching for the issue later may prove difficult without some form of database (would like to stay away from that if possible). If I file by issue I guess it will be by what is the most prevelant issue. For example, I am look at an issue re the structuring options required due to the imminent vesting (expiry) of a trust. Structuring seems to be too broad, maybe tiered file label like 'trust - vesting - structuring'? Any thoughts on whether the client name should also be there as this particular project will be specific to them (but later reference will likely on the basis of the issue rather than the client name)

    One further question, for those of you that work in an office environment - do you mix your admin type issues with your client/customer issues in your A-Z filing?

    Thanks in advance


  • #2
    When will you need to look at the files again? If it's when you are doing more work for the same client, then file by client. If it's when you encounter a similar issue, then file by issue. If it could be either, pick one and use a crossreference to point to the other.



    • #3
      More than likely I will need to look at the files when I get a similar issue but for another client, so issue seems to make more sense to me. The cross referencing is a good idea. I was planning on putting my project planning notes in these files so with the client name on these notes I guess I don't need to put the client name on the file itself.

      Looking back at my question I feel a bit silly now. most of the GTD stuff is just using common sense. I guess I am just a little gun shy as this is a new environment, when I initially implemented GTD I was working from home doing similar but different work so some of the GTD/organising details I still need to get my head around.

      Thanks for your help Katherine.


      • #4
        It seems to me that you would have to maintian a file for each client. No way around that. You need to be able to access comprehensive client information such as contact information and notes of which issues are active for that client, etc. all in one place. It also sounds like it would be helpful to have a file for each issue (trust vesting or whatever). So put all your trust vesting information into the "trust vesting" file and have a note in each relevant client file pointing to the "trust vesting" file. That way, you can access the trust vesting info as needed for any client, but still have easy access to the client info as well.

        As far as mixing admin and client files, that depends on the physical size of the file system. Generally, they would be separate. I personally have a couple of file cabinets dedicated to client files and a saparate file drawer dedicated to admin (general reference) stuff. It just seems to make sense to have a separate filing system for a well-defined set of information that takes up multiple filing cabinets. This also simplifies the process of passing client files or groups of client files to other employees when appropriate for workload redistribution.


        • #5
          Thanks Barry

          We do have a central electronic filing system for client information, but as the principal 'adviser' on these issues within the firm I need my own close at hand system rather than sorting through the central system numerous times every day.

          I have decided to set up my A _ Z for clients using the issue as the file label, inside the file will be the specific project support information which will include the client name. A thought I had last night though, there may come a time when I need to look at the exact issue(although the client facts will differ making the specific advice not exactly the same), so my labelling will be duplicated. Do you see any problem with having duplicate file names in the system? My thinking is that if I am looking at the issue I would just pull out all of those files for review anyway. There will be a need however to really think about the file label to ensure it is not too broad.

          Thanks for the input



          • #6
            Why not do what doctors do, or a variant thereof?

            If you've ever seen a lateral filing system, the answer may be there. I'll explain: if you're familiar with lateral filing, skip the next paragraph.

            Lateral files are often used by doctors (or more accurately, doctors' admin staff). They're those folders stored horizontally (long side horizontal) on shelves, with coloured alphanumeric labels on the edge.

            What I suggest is using that system, or at least the labelling component. Have a fixed length label size, and use the first X characters for the issue (if that's what you'd look for first) and the second Y characters for the client name. Then file these in alphanumeric (or alphabetic, if you prefer) order.

            One of the other benefits of the lateral labels is that they're colour-coded, so you can see instantly when one is out of place.


            • #7
              Originally posted by akr95 View Post
              ... so my labelling will be duplicated. Do you see any problem with having duplicate file names in the system? ...Kim
              Yes, that would be a problem. You need unique file names. With duplicate file names, how will you know which of the files is the one you want to access? You need to be able to determine that by looking at the label.

              At least append the client name to the end of the file name.