A series of articles emphasizing practical
knowledge you can't find in practice guides
and interviews with experts who share
their techniques for effective and efficient
Articles emphasizing practical knowledge you can't find in
Profiles of people who changed workers’ compensation
• Warren Schneider
• Marjory Harris
How To Store It, How to Find It
Send in your tips for office organization or requests for solutions
to office problems.
The Data Dilemma: You are preparing for
the deposition of an AME and you
remember a terrific examination you did in a similar case around five years
But you can't remember the client's name. You ask your secretary if she
the short, pudgy, balding man who looked like George in Seinfeld. She can't
remember Whowuzzit’s name, either. Maybe if you call the defense
attorney? But he
is retired and you don’t know how to reach him. Maybe if you look through
calendars, or maybe it will come to you in your sleep, or maybe you will just
to reinvent the wheel and start from scratch.
Sound familiar? The way to avoid this is to have a good information storage
which you religiously follow. But remember the "garbage in, garbage
out" rule --
information retrieval is only as good as information storage. Set up a system
stick to it. You can do this low-tech, with paper folders, but it is much more
if you do it on your computer.
To make sure you don’t have to start from scratch each time, save
documents not just in the client’s file, but in a separate file,
preferably a folder on
your hard drive (and don't forget to keep a backup of anything important on
hard drive in your safe deposit box). Here is an easy-to-use system you can set
in a few minutes.
Setting Up the System: On your hard drive, establish a folder
labeled “WC Law” or something similar. Then make subfolders. To
save time, download and unzip the
folder tree here.
If you prefer to deal with paper, use hanging file
folders in a file cabinet or file boxes.
Use the same labeling method described above. As the file boxes expand, you
see how much more useful it is to keep the files on your computer. You need so
little space, you can eliminate stale data by tapping the Delete key, you can
what is in the files with a search engine program (try the
free one from Copernic),
and you can copy and paste data into other files with a few mouse clicks.
Finding It Fast: Use the
Windows shortcuts to navigate quickly.
Here are two tips for finding your files with a mouse click or two:
Use a desktop
menu and a button on the launch bar.
Step 1: To set up a toolbar to hold all your legal shortcuts,
create a folder to store
the shortcuts: right click on empty space in the taskbar area at the bottom of
screen. Select “Toolbars,” then “New Toolbar.” Click on
“C-Drive,” then on the button at bottom left, “Make New
Folder.” Name the new folder “Law Practice tb” or
whatever you like. Click “OK.” You will see the new folder on the
Step 2: Drag it to the desktop (Windows key + M will reveal
the desktop, if you
cannot already see it) and position it. Make a shortcut to the launch bar by
the folder to the desktop, then drag and drop it on the launch bar.
Step 3: Drag and drop your shortcuts onto the new toolbar or
into the folder. You can
download this icon
and save it to your hard drive. Then you can add it to the
shortcut for the new folder by right clicking on the shortcut, selecting
then clicking on “Change Icon.” Browse for the icon, then click
“OK” twice. Browse
for the icon, then click “OK” twice.
Don’t forget to add a link to
(Right-click on icon to download:)
You can eliminate this step by using a utility like
Free Launch Bar or
True Launch Bar to create a flyout menu with all the legal shortcuts.
Follow the KISS Rule – Keep It Short and Simple
Descriptions need to be short but specific enough to
find it fast. Returning to the
depo you are preparing for. Since you can no longer remember the client’s
maybe not even the doctor’s name, when saving material to the new folder
make sure the labels don’t require mental gymnastics. “Causation
DDD” is more informative than “Depo of Dr. Fixit” or
“Depo on Whozit’s Back” or
Make a Habit of It
Do a little each day, and do it when it is fresh in your mind.
For the Power Users: Make a research
intranet, a spreadsheet
for links, and a Legal Checklist database
Your own intranet: You do not need to have FrontPage,
Publisher or a similar web
design program. You can use your word processor to make web pages. If you
want to call up all the relevant law on a topic – the Labor Code section,
regulations, sample forms and letters, links to cases, images and text from the
Internet, and the like, an intranet is the easiest way to do it.
Step 1: To do this in Word, on the File menu, click on
“New,” then select “Web page.”
Label this page “Index” and save it as an HTM file in a directory
you set up
(e.g., “WC Intranet”).
Step 2: Now make a new page, label it “Temporary
save it to the same folder as an HTM file. On this page insert a hyperlink
(Ctrl + K)
to the Index page, and on the Index page, put a hyperlink to the Temporary
Step 3: Put a shortcut on the desktop from the Index page, and
it to the launch bar so it is always handy. When you click on the shortcut or
launch bar icon, the Index page opens as a web page and you have your links to
the pages of your intranet.
If you want something less plain Jane, you can insert tables to organize the
information, borders, colored fonts, etc. Once you have a good design, save it
template and use it each time you add a page.
Create a database to store odds and ends of
Here is a record from my Legal Checklist database:
This is easier to do than it looks.
Step 1: Just set up a table in a database program such as
Access and add fields:
Step 2: Add buttons to link to other
databases, to search your own, and linked fields to
call up cases or documents. Create a form to display the data.
Create an Excel Spreadsheet to Hold Hyperlinks: The key to
getting around quickly
and finding your resources is the
hyperlink. It is easy to collect lots of links, but
without an organizing device, they are not that useful. Google is great, but
to find the DWC page that holds all the MPNs, or the WCAB page where the
decisions are posted. For this you need a spreadsheet, although you could use a
Word document, and a link to the launch bar or desktop so you can quickly call
the list. The Ctrl + K shortcut works throughout the MS Office Suite to call up
“Insert hyperlink” command.
Links can be to web pages, documents, or any file on your computer or on the
Internet or office Intranet. The advantage of using Excel is that you can have
worksheet for each major topic, and keep all these sheets in a workbook labeled
“Links.” By labeling the tabs, you can quickly see where to go.
worksheets and tabs: “WC,” “Medical,” “Social
Security.” You might want to break
down the subjects further.
And don’t forget to back up! All the effort you put into your practice
and into setting
up your information retrieval system can be gone in a flash. An off-site backup
storage facility such as a safe deposit box or online data storage service is
to protecting your assets. Set up an automatic backup system so you can quickly
up and running if disaster strikes.