Knowledge Management Series – Part 1: Problems with Using File Folders on a Shared Drive

This is the first in a series of posts, where I will discuss the benefits of maintaining efficient and resourceful knowledge management systems. Stay tuned to learn about the benefits of document management, task management, creating a precedent database, document assembly and other solutions to help the organization and efficiency of your practice.

For law firms and legal departments, maintaining organized files is of the utmost importance. In previous generations, this was primarily accomplished by having filing cabinets which contained organized files in accordion folders (perhaps sorted by area of law or file type), each of which contained many sub-folders to separate document types such as correspondence, drafts, research, agreements, etc.

While this organizational method seemed to be sufficient in the past, our continued reliance on electronic documents and e-mails has made an electronic system a must for any law firm or legal department.

If your organization is not using document management software, it is likely utilizing a multi-level file folder structure directly through the operating system (i.e. Windows or MacOS) on a shared or networked drive. For example, your organization may have a share drive that each employee has access to, where there are folders corresponding to various practice areas or file types, each containing subfolders for specific matters.

This set-up presents a number of concerns, including:

    1. Lawyers May Save to Local Drives

Lawyers may forego the use of the shared drive and save their own documents on local drives (i.e. on their personal computer).

    1. Arbitrary Names

Without set rules and standards, lawyers may arbitrarily create names for folders, sub-folders and the documents within these folders.

    1. Issues with Searching and Locating Files

This lack of consistency may make it difficult for other lawyers to locate files and documents that were saved by others whether by browsing the shared drive or by using the operating system’s built-in search capability.

    1. Reliance on Physical Files

Given the lack of consistency, organizations may not feel comfortable minimizing paper or physical files. This will lead to increased storage costs, archiving requirements and record retention decisions.

    1. No Integration with E-mails

Lawyers cannot adequately save e-mails into the file-folders. Typically, users will create folders corresponding to matters in their e-mail client (i.e. Outlook or Lotus Notes) to file e-mails. Usually others cannot view these folders and the e-mails saved within. As a result, pertinent e-mails must be printed and kept in the physical file.

In my next post, I will discuss how a document management system can alleviate the concerns that result from a file folder structure on a networked drive and also provide a variety of additional benefits that will help increase your law firm or legal department’s organization of electronic files and increase efficiency.

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