No matter what type of business you're in, it's hard to totally eliminate paperwork. But if you work in a law office, paperwork is virtually unavoidable.
And keeping them organized is crucially important. You don't want to let an innocent person end up in jail because you couldn't locate the document that exonerates him or her.
Even if the documents aren't of life and death nature, time is money. Especially in a law office where billable hours can make or break your business.
Which means, it's imperative that you create a law office filing system that's easy to use and maintain. With that in mind, here is the best way to organize paper files.
The Best Way to Organize Paper Files Starts With Decluttering
The first step in organizing anything is to declutter. There are a few reasons for decluttering first.
It's important to know exactly what you have. When clutter begins to accumulate, it's very easy to lose track of items. When you don't know where things are, it takes a lot of time and effort to search for them.
Taking stock of what you have helps you take stock of everything to determine what you have, where you're currently keeping it, and whether you actually need it.
Go through everything, including your law office supplies and get rid of anything you don't like, use, or need.
Shred and Recycle What You Can
Since most of the items that you're tossing are going to be directly related to your law office filing system, you're going to end up with a lot of paper.
And in law offices, most papers contain sensitive information. You would get into a lot of trouble if you just tossed these papers into the trash. Even recycling most documents isn't safe enough.
If your office doesn't have a shredder, it's time to invest in one. However, even if your office does have a shredder, most likely, there are so many documents that it may take a few hours to shred everything properly.
That's when it's time to call in a document shredding service in your area. Many of them will drive right up to your building, collect your papers and they will shred your sensitive documents in their truck.
Maintaining Older Records
As you're going through all the documents, you'll find many pieces of sensitive information that needs to be kept, yet isn't being used currently. Lawyers have to keep records for a specific amount of time depending on what state they practice in.
However, most law offices lack additional space to house these older, yet still sensitive documents. If you're looking for the best way to organize paper files for older documents, it's time to research off-site data management companies.
They can help you create a system on hold to organize office files that need to be kept for a certain period of time. You should also create a system for when to close and shred old files.
Then all you have to do is learn how to create a law office filing system for all current documents.
The Best Way to Organize Paper Files is to Sort Everything Into Categories
Once you only have items that you are currently using left, it's time to get started on creating a law office filing system. And the first step is to organize everything into categories.
Obviously, keep all files related to a certain case together. While you may need to use more than one file folder if the case is large, you can keep track of them by numbering them.
Perhaps your client's name is "John Smith". All Smith files would be labeled "Smith, John File 1". You may want to keep a note in the first file that shows how many additional file folders go with File 1.
Put Similar Items Together
The more you separate things, the harder it is to find everything. Not only should similar items be kept together, but everything should have a designated spot.
By making sure everything has a designated spot, you've won half of your organizational battle. Most of the time, clutter accumulates because you don't know where to put something away.
Which means, you pick a spot, any spot. That becomes a clutter pile. Do yourself a favor by making sure you know where everything goes.
If you're organizing your law office supplies, keep them all together. That way, when it comes time to re-ordering new supplies, you can quickly glance at what supplies you're getting low on.
Also, keeping similar things together makes it easier for you to remember where something is kept.
Keep It Simple
People who wonder how to organize office supplies often get in their own way. They overcomplicate a system that should be extremely easy.
The more difficult you make things for yourself, the less likely you can keep up with it. The system you create for your paper and office supplies should be so easy that even a fourth grader can figure it out and replicate it.
Your goal is to create a system so easy and effective that it takes no time at all to find a document. That's because your goal is to create more billable hours into your business hours. The only way to do that is to lessen the amount of time wasted on disorganization.
Tidy Up Every Night
During the day, it's possible that you're so focused on work that you forget to put things away. That's okay.
However, at the end of each workday, the smartest thing you can do is to tidy up before you leave. There are a few benefits to doing this.
One, putting everything away helps you to know exactly where to find things. Everyone else will, too.
Also, tidying up at the end of the day helps you mentally put away your work for the evening. While you may love the law, your mind and body need time to rest and relax. Putting things away allows your mind to also put away your work.
Being rested and well organized will help you increase your productivity levels.
And lastly, when you walk into your office the next morning, you're not greeted by chaos and disorganization. Instead, you walk into a tidy office ready to do battle with a fresh mind.
Now all you need to do is use your new law office filing system to get the information you need.
Use One Place to Get Everything You Need
The best way to organize paper files is to go through your files at least once a year to ensure that everything is in its place. Try to organize all your files in the same area so that it's easy for everyone to access and use the filing system.
You should also use one source to get all your supplies. It makes re-ordering that much easier. We carry an entire line of office supply products that cater specifically to lawyers. Click here to order your supplies today.