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Computer Corner: Using a Folder Tree to
Organize Your Cases

With downloadable folder trees for research and
client folders


By Marjory Harris, Esq.

In this series, we explore organizational techniques, software and hardware that will help you clear the mess from your desk, be more productive, and cut office overhead.

In an early issue in How to Store It, How to Find It, we presented a downloadable folder tree to help you store and easily find your legal research, briefs, deposition questionnaires, etc. Five years later we expand on and update the folder tree concept and show how to use it for case files in your paper-free office.

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spacer > Ogilvie Tips Redux
> Defense Perspective: Appellate Tips
> Functional Restoration Programs
> MSAs for Liability Cases
> Oregon Comp Odyessey
> Computer Corner: Folder Trees

If you missed previous Computer Corners:
A Case Management Adjunct
Analyze Evidence – and more – with TextMap
Babystepping Your Way to a Paperless Office
Be More Productive with Office OneNote
Create Your Own Medical Manager
File Utilities on Steroids
Getting on Top of To-Dos
How to Calculate Settlement Values & Organize Issues & Evidence
How to Store It, How to Find It
How to Work Faster, More Efficiently and with Lower Overhead
Saving Graces
Using Your Smartphone in the Paperless Office
 
Folders and Trees

In the dark old days of DOS, we spoke of directories, which were places on the hard drive where files were kept. We now talk of “folders,” which are containers of documents. Without getting mired in technicalities and computer-speak, the folder tree is a collection of files or folders within another folder or the root directory.

If you organize information in a systematic process within your workers’ compensation practice, you will be able to store and find things much faster than the old-fashioned way, which was to use paper files, organized or disorganized, or the “My Documents” wastebasket on your C drive.
 
The folder tree is a collection of files or folders within another folder or the root directory. See “Folder (computing)”
If you are still storing your files on C drive, please read my article “Saving Graces”.

That article contained a folder tree for storing your legal research. Now we focus on a folder tree for individual cases.

The client folder tree allows you to organize the files for easy access. You can drag and drop or copy-cut-paste or just copy and paste, if you want the files in different subfolders. Drives are now huge, the files are small, so running out of storage space is no longer a concern.

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If you need different subfolders than the ones I currently use, just create them in the clean Tree folder by right clicking, selecting “New” then “Folder.” If I am drafting a penalty or sanctions petition or a brief, I create a folder with the appropriate label and start adding exhibits to it, notes, my pleading caption template, and the like. In more complex cases, you may want an “MSC” folder or “Trial” folder. The “Trial” folder could then have subfolders for “Exhibits” if there are many.

In sum, the use of the tree is what you make of it. The possibilities are many, but this system only works if you systematically store things where they belong.

Some of the folders in the screen shot above bear some explanation. “Client Copies” are copies of documents I upload to my HIPAA-compliant drop box so that the client can download and review the documents. At the end of the case, one can put all documents there and upload the folder to the drop box, or burn them to a CD and mail that to the client. It saves a lot of clerical work and expense, since all that is required is a few seconds spent copying and pasting, rather than photocopying, preparing a label, and mailing.

The “EAMS” subfolder comes in handy when collecting the multitude of documents required for e-filers or (even more) for OCR filers. I store in the same folder the submit data messages EAMS emits, and a screen shot of the attachments I uploaded. In complex cases where there are additional submissions to the WCAB, I have subfolders with the date so that I can keep the submissions organized.

I keep all data files on “D” drive for ease of backup. I keep the client folder tree pictured above in the “WC” folder, where each client has a subfolder. When I open a new case, I just copy the empty folders to the new folder. To copy all at once, open the tree folder, then use Ctrl+A to highlight the folders, Ctrl+C to copy them, then insert the cursor into the client’s folder and use Ctrl+V.

Alternatively, you can open the folder where the tree is stored, right click on “Tree,” then select “Copy” from the dropdown menu, then place cursor on white space in folder, right click and select “Paste.” The result will be a folder named “copy of tree,” which you can then rename by right clicking on the folder and selecting “Rename.” Then put in the client’s name.
 
Legal folder tree

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Labeling Files

Now that you have your folder tree set up, it is time to decide on a labeling scheme that makes sense for your practice. When you scan a document, decide where to store it and what to label it. It is also a good time to record that in some record-keeping system, such as your case management program or a note system like File Notes Organizer (see below), especially if the document contains important information you will need to look up later. The worst approach is to end up with a bunch of files labeled “scan” followed by numbers, in a folder your scanning program uses as a general dumping ground.

Here are some examples of an approach I have found useful in my practice:

1. The label reveals the type of document and its date. Some examples are: “PTP Cutter 9-1-10,” “PenPet re PDAs 3-4-09,” “Schmoo AME supp 7-6-11.,” “DA Ltr to AME Schmoo 5-3-11,” “Ltr to AME Schmoo re RTW 7-20-11,” “Schmoo AME Supp re RTW 9-2-11.”

2. If you have someone else doing your scanning, you can change the label when reviewing the document.

3. If you do not want to spend any time labeling things, you can use a search engine to find what you need, although this approach will take longer than the few seconds required to label the document at the time of creation. You could, for example, search through the client’s folder to find every time that “Schmoo” is mentioned. This will require that you OCR documents as you scan them, or that you use a program that will search text even if you do not originally OCR documents. Again, having used various programs for many years, I find it is easier to label and install correctly during the scanning process. I use Lucion’s FileCenter when I scan and view files. Examine this list of features, then do the free trial. Besides advanced scanning, including to Word, and accurate OCR, it has many pdf features that rival Acrobat and other programs. It is a file viewer as well.

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Viewing and Annotating Your Files

While I rely heavily on FileCenter to scan and view documents, I have recently added another program that, like FileCenter, is an alternative to Windows Explorer and combines file viewer and search utilities: File Notes Organizer Pro. This program does a few things that FileCenter does not and to my mind is worth the $49 many times over. It allows me to enter notes about the contents of the files and to create virtual folders and collections of documents that I might be working on at present. Have you ever wished you could add comments without opening a folder in Windows Explorer, right clicking on the file, clicking on Properties, then entering your comment in the appropriate field, then having to search for it later by looking through all the files in a folder? With File Notes Organizer, this is far faster and easier to do.

This screen shot shows this issue of getMedLegal Magazine, where I created a notes catalog:

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Besides writing notes to illuminate the file’s content, you can bookmark within the file. Suggested uses are comments on doctor letters, reports and depos, petitions, and briefs. There are almost endless adaptations you can easily make to organize your files, folders and notes.
   
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Marjory Harris began practicing law in 1974 as a defense attorney and later became an applicant's attorney and a certified specialist. She continues to represent injured workers at the San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose and San Bernardino venues and mentors attorneys on big cases.

Reach Marjory at (888) 858-9882 or email to MHarrisLaw@verizon.net www.workerscompensationcalifornia.com

> Send in your tips for office organization or requests for solutions to office problems.