July 22, 2019 Technology

Ask Techie: Organize Your Electronic Case Folders, Guard Against Cyber-Threats

Welcome to the latest installment of our monthly Q&A column, where a panel of experts answers your questions about using technology in your law practice.

This month we answer readers’ questions about the best way to organize your electronic case folders, and the key steps you should take to protect your practice from cyber-threats.

Q: I hear a lot of lawyers store their case files in ordinary folders on a hard drive or in the cloud. Isn’t that a lot of work to set up, and do you have any tips?

A: No, it’s not, and yes, I do. I keep my matters in one master folder, each matter being a sub-folder, and each sub-folder having (usually) the following sub-folders: Pleadings, Discovery, Drafts, Notes, Research, and Correspondence. I also sometimes keep a timeline for the case to keep track of what has happened and what is due (kind of a double-docket). It only takes a few minutes to set this up, but here’s a tip: Keep a master template for this set of folders called, for example, “NEW MATTER TEMPLATE.” Include in it all the standard sub-folders. This has several advantages:

  1. Nearly instant matter setup. When a new matter comes in, you can make a copy of the master template and just rename it to the new matter name. It takes seconds.
  2. Always up-to-date standard documents. In the master template folder, you can store, for example, a standard retention agreement. When you update your retention agreement, such as to add a new provision or update your billing rates, you do that in the master template Correspondence folder. Then, for every new matter you always have the updated version.
  3. Timesaving pre-made standard template documents. Keep other standard documents in the master template folder. For example, how about the inevitable motion for extension of time to answer or otherwise plead? Or how about a standard timeline as an Excel spreadsheet? I use them in my cases, which under the local rules of the Northern District of Illinois require events to happen in a certain order at certain intervals (e.g., something is due 28 days after some other event). In an Excel spreadsheet, just type in the first event in cell A1 and the date in A2. On the next row type “=A2+28”. Excel will calculate the dates for you. If you store this in your master template folder, you can easily generate a case schedule by typing in the date of the first triggering case event. I’m sure you can think of lots of other documents you can standardize. Put them all in the master template folder.

—Todd Flaming (tf@tflaw.us) has for 25 years fought commercial cases, primarily over patents and technology.

Q: What are the key steps to protect my practice from cyberthreats?

A: I recommend the steps below:

  1. Run a cloud backup at least every night. If you are struck by ransomware or any other malicious malware, all the files in your office can be locked up or destroyed, including many types of local backups. A cloud backup protects you.
  2. Make sure everyone in your office takes a basic cybersecurity training course. It is important to be able to recognize deceptive phone callers, e-mail messages, and websites.
  3. Create an emergency response plan that covers what to do in case of a data breach. Phone numbers and resources and a checklist right at hand are invaluable under the difficult circumstances of an emergency.
  4. Begin using a password safe such as LastPass and make all of your passwords longer and stronger. Thieves now have access to very powerful computers and programs for breaking your eight-character passwords.
  5. Put security apps on all your mobile devices. They will protect the information on your phones and tablets and also help you to locate them if they are lost or stolen.

—Wells H. Anderson, JD, GPSolo eReport Contributing Technology Editor, Active Practice LLC, 952/922-1727, www.activepractice.com, SecureMyFirm, www.securemyfirm.com, 952/922-1120

What’s YOUR Question?

If you have a technology question, please forward it to Managing Editor Rob Salkin (robert.salkin@americanbar.org) at your earliest convenience. Our response team selects the questions for response and publication. Our regular response team includes Jeffrey Allen, Wells H. Anderson, Jordan L. Couch, Ashley Hallene, Al Harrison, and Patrick Palace. We publish submitted questions anonymously, just in case you do not want someone else to know you asked the question.

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