File Management Essentials

Best practice suggests that practitioners employ systems which:

  • store and retrieve key information regarding all firm clients and opposing parties
  • open and maintain active client files
  • check for conflicts
  • check for and record limitation periods
  • close and record, retain, and dispose of closed files
  • have an on-going review of management systems to ensure they meet changing standards and practices
  • identify clients’ property and ensure that they are placed in safe custody
  • comply with the Australian Solicitors Conduct Rules 2012 (Qld).

Storage and retrieval of key client and opposing parties information

Practitioners should consider maintaining information regarding:

  • current and former clients including
    • names, aliases and former names
    • date of file opening and closing
    • subject matter of the file
  • conflicting or adverse parties including
    • names of persons related, or associated with a client, former client or the names of persons relevant to client or former client matters
    • cross references to the client or former client file name, file number, and matter reference
  • accounting and billing
  • key dates and reminders.

File opening procedures

Practitioners should consider opening a file and preparing a file note when a client initially contacts the firm to obtain legal services. If applicable, practitioners should immediately note any limitation period, diarise it and advise the client if it is imminent.

A file opening checklist is recommended. The checklist should provide for a method of obtaining information about the client and the opposing party. A distinct file name and number should be allocated to each file and include the

  • name of the client; and
  • reference or matter number.

Organisation of file contents

Best practice suggests that client files contain sub-files for:

  • communications (including correspondence, memorandums to file or notes of conversations, meetings, or telephone calls arranged chronologically);
  • substantive memorandums and investigations;
  • original documents;
  • retainer letter;
  • firm accounts and billing information;
  • legal research;
  • undertakings to be satisfied; and
  • others as appropriate to the file.

For paperless practices a standardised file saving protocol should be implemented and adopted.