October 17, 2008 - Phil Hodgen

In search of better ways of running a professional service firm

The way file things is an anachronism inherited from the dim past. I know exactly why I use it, who told me about it (he’s long dead, and I wonder who told HIM!).

The firm uses 4 digits identifying the customer, followed by three digits identifying the matter. This system was established a zillion years ago by caveman law firms to make paper filing systems simple. It was preferable to an alphabetical system. It was also better for the antique accounting systems dating back to paper days.

It occurred to me this week that one of the reasons it is hard to move us into the paperless and virtual law office world is because I am lugging this 1234-123 numbering system with me — business practices that are someone else’s baggage from 1954.

A far better solution would be to use the concept of a trouble ticket or issue tracker, such as is used for software development or customer service.

A matter comes into the office, we need a unique identifier for it of course. But in this day of databases and Googly indexing and all of that, the rigid hierarchical method of numbering and categorization of matters isn’t needed so much.

What is REALLY needed is project management. I have thought for a long time that managing a project like a trouble ticket at my ISP would be really wonderful. All of the communications would be tied to that “ticket” and so would all of the documents. Status would be easy to track. And when the project is finished the ticket is closed and I have an instant archive. The process IS the file.