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Storing old files can be rather costly. Depending on where your practice is located, storing a bankers box worth of client files for five years, or however long is required by your state bar's ethics rules, can add up, especially as the boxes of files stack up.
Given the advances in digital file storage, it makes sense to digitize closed case files for storage. After all, even if the storage costs aren't an issue, managing the physical box (including security and privacy of client information contained therein), and actually destroying the contents, takes time and money. Fortunately, the number of services that provide scanning services means that you can find competitive pricing, so you don't even have to waste an unpaid intern's time scanning docs.
Here are three important tips on digitally storing your old case files.
1. Naming Conventions: Make'em and Use'em
Regardless of how many files you have, you should try to maintain consistent naming conventions. Generally, you want to include the case name, a date, and a descriptive term or acronym (i.e. Smith_01012017_MTDO.pdf). Using standard naming conventions like this will allow you to use your file system's search tool to find old sample pleadings you may want to "recycle" in a new case. It can also help when it comes time to refresh your personal form library, as finding the pleadings to use will be much simpler. Every time you, or anyone in your office, touches a file that does not conform to your naming convention, rename it.
Protip: Be careful when using "shortcuts" to get into your digital archive or form library. Shortcuts are filepath links that can easily be broken if you change a folder name, or add another level to your old files' database hierarchy.
2. Double Bag, and Lock, Digital Files ... From Far Away
If you are not backing up your backup, you're taking the risk that your backup will be there when you need it. Redundancy is the key here. Also, your backup's backup should not be stored in the same location. Remote (or cloud based) backup system make excellent second backups.
Also, it is very important to make sure whatever backup system you choose, you encrypt that backup (if it's not password protected, you're taking an awfully big risk).
3. Don't Let New Digital Filing Become Old
While there is no shortage of professional third party scanning services, high quality and fast scanners are available to purchase at rather reasonable prices. So long as you keep up with scanning every piece of paper that crosses your desk as it is crossing your desk, you won't need to send out scanning or waste yours or an admin's time on digitizing your current files when they become old.
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