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How to Create a Case File Number
Reviewing many law firm case management software packages, we are constantly amazed at how many overpriced packages have “automatically create a case number” at the top of the feature list like it’s a hard thing to do, even impressive as a feature of the package. Also most of these packages just create a 6 digit number and start at 000001 then go to 000002 and so on and don’t let you customize.
We suggest that case numbers be codes that tell you a lot more than just a number, but at the same time have a simple format so you can easily create and read them on the fly.
Let’s look at a simple but informative case number:
Let’s break it down a bit:
- 20100310 is the date. Use the descending date format because it is easier to find cases with a period reference. Descending dates are arranged starting with year, then month, then day, so in the example above, the case started on March 10, 2010.
- Next, a two-letter code of your choice that indicates what type of case it is. In our example above, “FL” stands for “Family Law”. Here are some suggestions: CL – Contract Law, PP – Product/Process, CD – Criminal Defense, etc. You can skip this step if you only practice one type of law.
- Your subcode is a second two-letter code clarifying the type of case. In our family law example above, “CC” stands for child custody. Create a list of applicable subcodes and keep them in a “reference file” with your case type codes from #2.
- The use of client initials as part of your case number is optional depending on the sensitivity of the case and the client’s desire for anonymity. In our example, we dialed the name “Jane Smith” and used JS. We certainly do not recommend using the client’s name in the file number.
- If you have a customer who can provide multiple cases, put the actual number of cases for that customer in parentheses. In this example, this would be our 9th case for Jane Smith. If this is a single case with little chance of repeat business from that customer, you won’t need to put any numbers at the end.
Tips and tricks :
- When creating a case file number, use it when naming word processing or spreadsheet files so that everything can be searched and/or called up using the case number. Also note the number on all records and use it on stickers that might be on CD/DVD cases, cassette tapes, evidence boxes, etc.
- Naming your computer files also makes it easier to find, as most systems allow you to search for part of the filename using some kind of “wildcard character” such as the asterisk*. For example, if you wanted to see a list of all family law cases in 2010, you would enter the search string 2010*FL*.doc (if you were looking for Microsoft Word ® files). Also, simply listing them by filename will automatically display them in chronological order due to their folder number alone.
- Rather than buying complex and overpriced software packages, you can easily use the software that probably came with your computer such as your word processor and spreadsheet program mentioned above, as well as a calendar/contact program such than Microsoft Outlook®.
Then, to learn more about case management for paralegals and lawyers, visit: www.theattorneycasefile.com.
(Copyright 2010 – Paul Purcell. Permission granted to share this article provided all parts remain intact.)
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