An Efficient Filing System Makes an Efficient Lawyer


Law firms: Losing billing hours looking for files

Increase your billable hours and put your hands on your documents when you need them with these quick and easy tips

This week I am going to address a setup for litigation files, and quick and easy tips on retrieving documents before they are filed.

An effective and efficient filing system is often underestimated in its importance and establishing a reliable filing system is crucial. Accessing files easily and finding documents on short notice is important to a lawyer and/or law firm.

Everyone has his or her own filing system and/or methods but once you select the system or method you want to use, it is extremely important that you stay consistent with it.

Here are just a few quick tips on establishing an efficient filing system.


These are just some examples of litigation files you may want to create, or customize to your preference. Having files broken down into categories saves a lot of valuable time.

  • Accounting
  • Correspondence (General)
  • Correspondence (Client)
  • Correspondence (with Attorneys)
  • Pleadings
  • Deposition Summaries
  • Motions
  • Discovery
  • Medical Records
  • Evidence
  • Client Documents
  • Investigation
  • Legal Research
  • Notes and Miscellaneous


Keeping the filing current in a law firm is a necessity.


Depending on the size of the firm, having a file clerk (or file department) in charge of the upkeep of files would be beneficial. Even if you are a small firm, hiring a part-time file clerk would be very valuable to the firm.


In between filing, alphabetically place the documents in an expandable file folder (folder suggestions are referenced below). Remove duplicate copies. This way a document will be in either one or two places—the expandable file folder or the file itself. The secretary usually has one, you might want to utilize an expandable file in your office by placing the document in it until you are ready to work on the case. At least you or your secretary will be able to locate the document.

Bottom line, you want to avoid wasting your valuable billable time by shuffling through a stack of papers in order to find one document. Having a temporary location and/or individual file categories will make a world of difference!


  1. Staples Heavy Duty Expanding Files (Legal) A-Z Index
  2. Smead® Desktop File Sorter A-Z
  3. Oxford® All Purpose Pressboard Sorter

I personally recommend the Heavy Duty Expanding sorter (with the open top).

This is re-post from July 2010 of a popular article for law offices from our previous blog, The Law Office Organizer, by Pamela Mims.