Speaker Key: PB
Phil Brown, DW
PB Hi. It's Phil Brown and I'm here with David Whelan, and today we're going to talk about file management.
DW Hey Phil. This is obviously one the most
exciting topics we have ever discussed, but files are an important
part, a physical component, of every law practice and as you are taking
your files and thinking about how are you going to manage that
information on your computer or on your devices, it's important to think
about how you're doing it right now so that you've got the best
possible processes that you can move over to your technology.
PB So we have two different worlds; we have the physical file world, and then we have paperless or electronic file world.
PB And I guess one of the things to note to
begin with is if you're an absolute mess in terms of organization with
your physical files, it's going to be a great leap for you to get into
the electronic world.
DW There are really two ways that people tend
to go out about organizing their information in law practices. One way
is to try and emulate, in their technology, the filing system they have
in their office. So, for example, if you have a client folder and
inside that client folder you have multiple file folders; one for
pleadings and one for correspondence and so on, it's relatively easy to
take that system and create a folder structure on your computer or on
your device that reflects that same folder structure, so that you can
you can go into a client folder on your computer and within that client
folder there are sub-folders.
PB One of the key things there, the key word that you mentioned, is structure.
PB And you have to have a very robust naming convention for all those electronic files or you may never find them again.
DW That's a great point because if you start
out with a very simple structure, say, you use the last name of client,
you can very quickly get the point where, if you get a second client
with that same name and have to create a new folder, of having to back
through your system and fixing that. So the more complete your naming
convention, both for the folders, as well as the documents that go in
them, the better. The other approach is something that requires a
little bit of flexibility. Think of a big pile of paper on your desk
that has no organization at all, and some people like that on their
computer too. So they'll just create a big folder and throw everything
into it, and then they rely on search or some other technology in order
to help them get it out. If you are the sort of person who likes to
browse through folders and organise your information in that way,
folders are a great way to go. If you don't browse but you're
comfortable using search you can actually create a single folder with
everything in it, but then you really need to focus on your naming
conventions for all those files, so that when you do a search and
retrieve all that information, you know what you're looking at.
PB And one of the things related, of course,
to file management is backups. It's a good idea to have some
redundancy in the electronic world as well.
DW Yes. If you've got all these folders in a
particular location on your computer, it can actually make your backups
much easier because now you know where all of your files are, and if
you're sharing those files with other people in your office they know
how to get around the same folder structure. Or, if you put it out on
your network server they know how to get to the same information and
also to create new files and folders in the system.
PB Before we get into the concept of
searching, one of the things I should mention is that if you're making
this conversion from a physical file management system to an electronic
file management system or a paperless office, one of the things you
have to keep an eye on is to develop this system moving forward, and not
going back and recreating and copying everything.
DW That's a good point. I think one of the
interesting things about moving your files onto technology, onto
computers, is that you can start to get benefits that you can't realize
with a piece of paper. So if you have a client folder, and inside that
client folder you have a document that actually needs to go in multiple
sub-folders, on your computer you can actually place that file in
multiple locations. Now, you wouldn't actually want to place multiple
copies there because if someone changed one copy that might not
actually impact the other files, but what you can do is once you put a
file into a sub-folder, you can create shortcuts to that file in other
sub-folders. And that way, if you've organised your files in a certain
way and a staff person or another lawyer comes along and wants to find
information in that client folder but is thinking about it differently
from how you organized it, they might still be able to find it because
they can find the shortcut to the document even if that's not where the
actual document exists.
PB So one of the other things we can talk about at this point is limiting access to those files as well, electronically.
DW When you put your files onto a system, you
can change the properties of the folders and of the individual files,
so that only the people that need to get access to those files are able
to. In many cases you'll want to have larger access, broader access,
so that you don't have to open a file or share a file every time
someone needs access to it, but it allows you to really control access.
If you have an issue like a Chinese wall to keep people from looking at
particular content, you can use the security to help to block.
PB And you can change security when employees leave as well.
PB So let's talk about finding these files
now that you've created them and saved them in various places.
Presumably you have backup copies which are off-site in case you have
some sort of business interruption, but how are we going to find these
DW Well, the most obvious way is browsing, and
that is really the digital version of what you're already doing.
You're walking to a shelf, you're opening a folder, and then you're
looking at sub-folders and the papers that are inside them. You can
still do that in a digital world, but the benefit of having your content
digitally is that you can now start to search for the information and
not have to go and browse and try and remember how a document was
filed. You can use search both on your computer and on the web to find
information that you've stored.
PB Do you need other software or can you search from the software itself?
DW At a very basic level you can do search
within your operating system - with Windows 7. Windows search has
finally gotten to the point where it's reliable enough that you can
pull back information very, very quickly. With earlier versions of the
Windows operating system it wasn't always that good. Windows 7 users
should also make sure that they look at their Indexing Options in their
Control Panel, and this is a little geeky, but Windows, when it comes
out of the box, doesn't automatically index the contents of all the
documents you would want to search. It often will only index the file
name, so you need to go into your index options, and make sure that it
is indexing the contents for all the files that you are looking for
particularly if you use WordPerfect or something that is not a
PB And the Mac has the similar function with
Finder and those are the built-in options. There are also some search
apps that you can add to your computer.
DW Two of the best-known ones are X1 and
Copernic and they are software applications that you download and
install on your local computer and they provide you powerful search
options and the ability to do keyword searching and other things on
your computer. There is a free version of Copernic, but that is only
for personal use, so if you use Copernic make sure you're paying for
the business license.
PB Some people are storing information in
the Cloud which is basically just... we've talked about this in other
podcasts; servers that aren’t within your organisation. How would you
search information stored in the Cloud?
DW When you load information up to Dropbox or
to Google Drive or one of these other Cloud sites they typically will
have a search interface built into the website, so when you go to your
Dropbox account at Dropbox.com you can do a keyword search and it will
automatically search all the files that are out there. One of the
interesting things about using Cloud search or Cloud storage is that
even if you don't want to put all of your client files up there... say
you've got a large number transcripts related to litigation or to some
other large set of text documents, you can load those into the Cloud,
and then use the search in the Cloud to, very rapidly, pull back files
that might take longer to look for if you're using just your operating
system or a local search application.
PB And there's a couple of different apps
built specifically so that you can search all of your social media
applications as well.
DW Right. One of the best known is CueUp which
used to be known as Greplin. CueUp.com and CloudMagic.com is another
one, and what that allows you to do is that if you have a Dropbox
account and a Twitter account and Google mail account, you can search
all of those systems all at once. So the benefit of using search in
addition to browsing is that you can have a way to pull back information
from multiple locations without having to remember where the
information was stored before you start looking for it.
PB And you alluded a bit to tweaking Windows
7 to be able to turn on the indexing. Do you want to talk a little bit
about indexing and how it works?
DW Sure. Indexing is a shortcut for search
programmes so when you type in a search it usually isn’t actually
looking at all of the files on computer right then. It has built an
index prior to your search, and the index is a file of information
about the files that are on your computer, and that makes the search go
faster. So when you do a search the search application looks at the
index, finds the files that have the attributes, the keywords, or
whatever you're looking for that match and then returns those matches.
So the index is stored on your computer somewhere. You won't
necessarily see it but it allows you to have a faster search on your
computer. If you're using Cloud-based storage or Cloud-based search
like CueUp or CloudMagic then that index is also stored in the Cloud,
and you'll want to make sure that it is protected and secured in the
same way as the actual documents are.
PB Great. That's our quick look at file management. Thanks, David.
DW Thanks, Phil.