For many of us, getting and keeping client information and documents organized is a struggle. Without a proper process in place, one generally ends up with piles, emails, notes and scraps of information all over the place – and by that I mean in both your physical office and on all your various devices and digital equipment.
Below I share with you 5 steps that anyone can take to get and keep each new client’s file, information and documents organized:
1. Create a client contact sheet.
A client contact sheet is exactly as it sounds – a sheet of paper containing the client’s contact information – telephone number(s); address; personal email; perhaps date of retention and any notes you may have taken during your initial consultation.
You can create a form for your client contact sheet and print out several blanks – which you fill in by hand as you are in the consultation or you can also type out the information and print out your client contact sheet after you have been retained.
Once completed, the client contact sheet gets stapled to the inside left cover of the initial file folder. You will soon realize how handy it is to have this information at your fingertips and not just stored digitally.
2. Create a physical file.
Once you have been retained, you will need to open a physical file. Depending on the type of law you practice, this file may grow to include several red wells with several subfolders including correspondence, client documents, pleadings, motions, forms, memos to the file, etc. However, to start, you need just one manila folder with the client’s initial documents, the signed retainer agreement and a completed client contact sheet. As the file grows, you add red wells as necessary.
3. Create a digital folder.
On your computer’s hard drive or your firm’s networked drive, you will need to create a folder for the digital files and electronic information for this client. I am a big believer in grouping like things, including clients. So, first create a directory/folder labeled “Clients”, then create a sub folder/directory in it for each client. Whenever you receive an electronic communication or document, save it directly to the client’s electronic folder.
4. Add information to electronic contact database.
After creating your physical and digital folders, you must now add your client’s information to your contact database. For me, that database is Outlook but your firm may use a legal specific product, such as Rocket Matter. Since the onboarding process for clients has several steps – and since we all know how easy it is to be interrupted by more urgent work (especially after the physical file is created and paperwork moved out of your line of vision), on my client contact sheet I have a box to check off after the client’s data has been entered into Outlook. I cannot tell you how many times I have looked at a contact sheet and see the box NOT checked. Of course, I immediately add the data to Outlook and check off the box at that point.
5. Add information to billing/financial software.
Obviously, you’re going to have to bill this client, so will need their address and contact information stored within your billing/financial software. There is a box on my contact sheet for this as well.
That’s it. If you follow these 5 steps every time you take on a new client, you will always have each client’s information handy and you will be in a position to move forward in keeping all the documents, files, emails and information provided by this client organized.
Andrea Cannavina (@AndreaCan) helps law firms organize, automate and implement business process improvements to create efficient workflows and happier staff.