Tag Archives: Best Practices

A Day in the Life of an Ipro Trainer/Consultant

Ipro Trainers

Ipro’s Trainers and Consultants are a division of the Professional Services group. Our team is comprised of professionals from a variety of backgrounds in the legal industry. Together, we’ve worked in just about every space within the legal, Litigation Support, and eDiscovery business including law firms, corporate legal departments, service providers, independent business owners and trial consultants. Every member of the team brings their expertise and insight to assist you. You’ll find that we’re a talented group who share a common passion for problem-solving and a deep commitment to client satisfaction.

Day to day, we’re tackling any number of tasks that could include creating customized workflows for specific clients, troubleshooting, building templates, conducting deployment and training sessions, administering certification exams, advising our users of best practices for taking advantage of our software and working with our product development team to deliver feedback on new products and features.

Of course, collaborating with our clients is priority number one. However, we also work on a variety of projects that range from the design of training and deployment agendas to software testing for our product development team to development and documentation of workflow solutions. And we especially love to get our hands ‘dirty’ and assist clients with software implementations as well as data and server migrations. Our software is very powerful and can be utilized in many different ways. Our job is to ensure our clients understand the best workflows to help them win their cases!

We take great pride in the fact that we are often advocates for you, our clients. We know the challenges you face because we’ve been in your shoes and have the tools to research and provide customized solutions using Ipro products.

To learn more about our services and products, visit our website.

3 Tips to Hold the Audience’s Attention During Your Next Trial Presentation- Part 3

Ipro tips

In the previous installment, we reviewed the power of repetition to capture the jury’s attention. If you missed it, be sure to check it out. In this next and final post in the series, we’ll touch on a few more powerful techniques you can use in the courtroom to take your presentation to the next level and be the attorney the jury remembers.

Use Attention Getters
They’re called attention getters for a reason. You don’t want to bore your audience by talking for a long time, especially with a heavy topic, so try changing things up throughout your time in front of them.
When working with a jury, litigators cannot interact with their audience like presenters in normal presentations can, but the attention and focus strategies for other presentation types can still apply. Just tailor them for trial.
Use the following presentation mechanisms to put a little variety and spice into your presentations and examinations.
• Tell an engaging story
• Use a rhetorical question that makes them think more critically about the case
• State a shocking or interesting fact the audience may not be familiar with
• Use a quote from a prominent figure or even something from your case that illustrates your point and sets the mood
• Show an enthralling clip from a video testimony
• Use a prop or creative visual aid that you can hold or use to demonstrate what you’re talking about

Conclusion
Think about what you would want a presenter to do to keep you engaged during trial. What techniques would work best to not only maintain your attention but help you understand the many moving parts of a given case?

Fortunately, the days of file boxes of boring paper exhibits are gone (almost). It’s now possible to use technology combined with compelling storytelling techniques to present your argument to the jury in a way that connects in this modern world. Now, who doesn’t want that?

Learn more about TrialDirector 360 and how it can help you by visiting our website.

3 Tips to Hold the Jury’s Attention During Your Next Trial Presentation- Part 2

In the previous installment, we discussed the initial approach to capturing the jury’s attention. If you missed it, be sure to check it out.

In this next post, we’ll go over a few more important aspects for not only engaging the jury, but best practices to ensure they understand and remember the critical pieces of your argument so when it comes to deliberation, the outcome is in your client’s favor.

Repeat, Repeat, Repeat
In any presentation, if you want your audience to remember what you’re talking about, one of the best tools in your arsenal is to say and show the thing you want them to remember several times.
There’s quite a bit of science to back up the power of repetition. Basically, every time you let your audience see, hear and, best of all, feel what you want, you strengthen the synapses firing in their brain around that thing.
You should know what you want your audience to focus on well before trial starts. In fact, you should decide what that thing is very near to the case outset and then build your strategy around it. Doing this not only helps with knowing what you want your jury to focus on, but it can also help with an organized and efficient trial prep process.

Don’t forget the tools that help you with repetition. With trial presentation software, you can quickly display items you want to keep fresh in the jury’s mind any time you want. No digging through folders and paper to try to find the right document or image. Imagine simply typing a number into your laptop and up pops an important document, image, or video you want the jury to see.

Then, remember you can leave the document or image up. Think about how valuable it is having an image on a large screen for a long period of time as you’re relaying the critical parts of your argument. As you speak, the jury can look and see exactly what you’re talking about. You can zoom in on the image, mark it to focus the jury’s eyes on where you want them to go, and even have the image show side by side with something else that you want to show. You can harness the power of video tools to make an impact on the jury. Impeaching a witness? Imagine the jury’s reaction when you question the witness about signing a document, who then answers ambiguously, but then you produce a video clip of their deposition where they contradict the answer they just provided. Pair that up with the Tear out feature of their signature on the document in question. The jury won’t forget what they saw or you.

Later, if you find the need or wish to drive your point even further, all you need to do is type in that number you assigned again, and the document or image appears just like it did the first time. We cannot overstate how powerful it is using video tools, document management and trial presentation software to supplement your presentations.

Found these tips helpful? Tune in next week for the final tip in this series.

If you’re ready to take your trial presentation to the next level, read more about TrialDirector 360 here.

How to Get the Most Out of Product Training

Ipro Training

You or your company just purchased a new software product, and it’s now your task to learn how to use it. To tackle the training, first decide which one of these learning styles are you?

The button pusher: I don’t have time for training, so I just jump in, push buttons and see what happens, clicking around until hopefully, I get the desired result.

Instructions exist for a reason: Everything I need to know is in this fifty-page manual, so I’ll spend the next several days (or weeks!) reading every page and hope by the end it all makes sense.

Sign me up! I want the visuals and ability to ask my questions from an expert, so an in-person or web-delivered training class is my speed.

Hope for the best: Ignore the new software and hope no one asks me how to use it.

Now, depending on what you’re doing, any of those (except the last one, let’s be honest) could be an effective method, but when it comes to discovery and trial software, is it really a time saver to guess your way through a new product? Or spends hours plowing through manuals with no applicable knowledge? Are you maximizing the technology’s full capabilities? Is it more frustrating than helpful?

Of course, not all software providers offer training, but here at Ipro, we want our customers to be efficient, confident, and satisfied, to get the most out of their product investment.

If you want to be the Sign me up! person (and you should), here are a few tips to getting the most out of your product training session.

Come prepared to learn. Sounds obvious, but very often it can be challenging to tune out the work waiting for us and clear the mental space to absorb new information. Time to turn off those email notifications for a few hours.

Share your knowledge and business usage. Being able to discuss how you use or will use the software in your business can help the trainer ensure you get the information you need. As an added bonus, you may be helping someone else in the room think about their own application of the product. Win-win.

Consider how you learn best. At Ipro, we offer several methods to get the training you need from our online Ipro Community to webinars to in-person training both at our location or yours. Take a moment to assess the best way for you to get the training. Maybe it’s coming to an Ipro location to remove office distractions. Or maybe it’s better to schedule training at your location to include more key players. Maybe you learn well using online tools and a webinar would suit your needs. Setting yourself up on the right platform is one sure way to succeed.

Take notes. In addition to the material a trainer may provide, be sure you are taking specific notes on how the product or solution works in your environment. Keep track during the training to be sure to ask how a section may be applicable to your work. Never be afraid to ask questions. That’s what training is all about.

Following these simple but important tips can help ensure you get the most out of your time investment when attending product training.

To find the right Ipro product training for you, including the all-new TrialDirector 360, click here.

Tech Tip Tuesday: Moving your Authorization Server

Today’s Tech Tip comes from a most asked question received on our Ipro Community.

Moving your Authorization Server

From time to time we get requests on assisting with moving an authorization server. There are many reasons why someone might want to do this, but if you forget to do some small steps, it will result in having to call Ipro Support to clear everything for you before you can reauthorize. This also affects moving serial numbers for Classic products between machines as well. So to help make things easier the next time you need to move your authorization, here is how to do it without needing to call in.

Online Authorizations
On the ORIGINAL authorization machine, open the Ipro Auth Manager. Note for eScan-IT and Copy+ this can be accessed manually by going to the install location
Click on Authorization Management > Remote Management > Deactivate
Install the Ipro Auth Manager on your NEW authorization machine and input your ClientID and Serial number from the other machine.
If it is already installed, click on Authorization Management > Remote Management > Activate
Ensure you get a Valid status in your Auth Manager

Offline Authorizations
Install the Ipro Auth Manager on your NEW authorization machine and input your ClientID and Serial number from the other machine.
Open the Ipro Auth Manager on the NEW machine
Click on Authorization Management > DAT Management > Export
Save the DAT file somewhere on your computer
Email CSR@Iprotech.com with that DAT file and request for it to be authorized. You should receive a new DAT file from them
Go back to the Ipro Auth Manager and click Authorization Management > DAT Management > Import
Select the new DAT file you received from CSR@iprotech.com
Ensure you see the Valid status in your Auth Manager

For dongle users, the only thing to remember is to move the dongle from the old machine to the new machine. If you for whatever reason can no longer access the Ipro Auth Manager from the ORIGINAL machine and you are using an online authorization, please contact Ipro Technical Support to have us clear your account manually on our end so you can reauthorize on the new machine.

For more tips, be sure to join our Ipro Community.

Tech Tip Tuesday: eCapture

eCapture

We polled our Support team and Ipro Community to find some common questions our product users had and the best resolution. Check back on Tuesdays for more tech tips to help you make the most of your Ipro investment.

Pausing Jobs and How This Could Affect Deduplication: eCapture

If you are ever in the situation where you need to pause a job in eCapture for some reason, then you should know the possible impact this could create with deduplication. In general, pausing a job will not impact anything with the job, but this can change depending on other jobs that are running or will be run. Here is an example of something that can happen:

We start a job called Job A. Then we pause Job A and start another job (Job B) in the same custodian.
We are de-duplicating at the custodian level.
Let’s say Job A has processed 10 files before it was paused, one of those files was found in Job B > Job B will list the item as a duplicate of the item in Job A.
Let’s let Job B finish and unpause Job A and let it finish
The last item in Job A was a duplicate of an item in Job B > Job A will deduplicate it out, keeping the item from Job B

In this case both jobs have an item that was deduplicated from the other. Whichever job discovers the item first will be the reference, and all other jobs will mark their items as duplicates, even if one job finishes before the other or if a job is paused. Let’s go over another scenario:

Let’s start Job A and let it get though the same 10 documents again, then pause it
Now we will start Job B and let it finish. One of Job B’s items is a duplicate of one of the items in Job A that is done with processing, and gets deduplicated
Now we delete Job A. What happens to the item in Job B? It still is marked as a duplicate and will still be deduplicated.

Now we are in a problem where an item is getting marked as a duplicate despite the original job being deleted. Normally if we delete Job A before starting Job B, this wouldn’t cause a problem, but because the jobs were active at the same time, the jobs are now “linked” by their duplicate items and deleting one job means potentially re-running the other.

For more tips, be sure to join our Ipro Community.

Video File Formats – What is best?

One of the many powerful tools available for use in litigation is video. Video can be used to tell a story, depict a day in the life of someone, see the actual event happening, see a witness’s demeanor during examination, substitute for a witness who cannot attend the trial in person, impeachment and the list goes on. From the early days of 8mm film, followed by VHS tapes to today’s digital video, this tool is an essential part of almost every trial.

When an attorney used 8mm film, VHS tapes or LaserDisc, the setup and use was straightforward. Someone would hook up the player to a projector or TV and when they needed it, they pressed the play button. Pretty easy. Once digital video came into the mix, things started to get complicated. While you still hook up to a projector or TV and press the play button, digital video has some potential complications that can add a degree of difficulty you really don’t need at trial.

Digital Formats:
One of the most common digital formats and the focus of this blog is MPEG. MPEG is an acronym for Moving Pictures Experts Group. This group of authorities set the standards for audio/video compression and transmission of the digital files that everyone “abides” by. These standards set the compressed data format to a standard video compression specification. Creation of these digital files requires software known as a “video codec” that includes an encoder that can compress the video into a smaller file size and a decoder that will decompress the files for playback. More on video codecs later.
The original MPEG standard that was first developed and released in 1993 was called MPEG-1. This standard is still very much in use today and has continuously been recommended, especially in litigation, because MPEG-1 doesn’t require anything special to make it work. Using an MPEG-1 video compression algorithm, a 120-minute video would be compressed to about 1.2 GB. MPEG-2 is a standard that has been adopted by most of the movie producing companies because of the higher visual quality of video available during playback. The compression algorithm of MPEG-2 would take a 120-minute video and compress it to about 4GB – 8GB, but with a much higher quality than MPEG-1. With the eruption of the internet, MPEG-4 has steadily become the standard of choice thanks to its high level of compression while maintaining a high level of quality during playback. One of the many reasons that MPEG-4 has become popular is that its compression algorithm will compress a 120-minute video to about 300MB and maintain a very high quality. Choosing a video format essentially becomes a comparison between power, speed, storage capacity and fidelity or quality of the video and the requirements to play the video, i.e. video codecs.

Issues:
When it comes to working with digital video files, the number one culprit that causes issues is the video codec. If you have ever had audio play, but not the video or had some MPEG files play but not others, it is because the video codec is incompatible. Video playback software that came pre-installed or was installed after the fact may install their own codec and you can have multiple codecs installed on the same computer. When this happens there are potential conflicts and it is unknown what codec will be used with what video. The problem is consistently found when dealing with MPEG-2 video files and less of an issue with the other MPEG formats. There are several packages commercially available that can be used to determine what codecs are installed and what may or may not be conflicting.
A secondary issue when dealing with digital video that may be encountered is that not all digital video is created equally. Just because the format is MPEG-1 or MPEG-2 doesn’t mean that it is compliant or compatible with the player. One thing to verify is if the video was created using a constant bit rate or a variable bit rate. Another possible area to check is if within the file format, standards or “parts” have been included. For example, MPEG-4 Part 8, is video formatted using a method to carry the content on IP networks. Another would be MPEG-4 – H.264 or Part 10 that supports video resolutions up to 4096×2304 or 4K UHD. Making sure that your video codec supports constant or variable bit rates and parts or variants to a format will help alleviate some of the potential issues you may encounter.

Conclusion:
When it comes to working with video files and having issues, find out who/what created the video, if there are any non-standard or non-compliant issues and what video codecs are installed on the computer. Taking these steps to resolve any issues beforehand is critical to a smooth presentation and keeping your focus where it needs to be at trial.

When Free Speech, Social Media, and Employment Collide. What are the Rules?

The rights of Americans are constantly in the news lately. Often the discourse questions if the rights supersede any potentially damaging effects, such as gun control and Second Amendment Rights. But this article is about The First Amendment, how it relates to social media use in the workplace and what are the rights of both the employee and employer. According to Pew Research Center, approximately 1 in 7 Americans use some form of social media, about 69% of the population. In other words, that’s a lot of people. The likelihood that some of those users are in the workplace is a given. With the prevalence of smartphones, smart watches, and a tablet or laptop in everyone’s hand, the chances that an employee completes their workday without accessing any social media platform is slim. So, what are the legalities concerning this ever-growing trend?

In 2017, you may have heard the story of an anchor on ESPN who received a highly publicized suspension for her Twitter activity in which she posted controversial remarks about the president and commentary about the disciplining NFL players for Anthem kneeling, but did she break ESPN’s rules? What about an employee who posts on social media complaining about their boss, their coworkers, or the work environment? Is there a difference? Yes and no. Some of what we say on social media is protected, some are governed by an employer’s policy, and some of it is fair game. Let’s take a look at each.

In the case of the ESPN employee, she works for a high-profile company that sponsors sporting events. Speaking out in any way that suggests a boycott or otherwise could be seen as a direct negative implication to her employer. That type of commentary is decidedly different than complaining the women’s restroom is always out of toilet paper. The ESPN employee may be bound under the company’s social media policy that she not publicly engage in dialogue that could be detrimental to her employer. Breaking that policy gives the company the right to take disciplinary action.

What does the law protect? The First Amendment doesn’t apply in all cases of social media use, but there are regulations that protect some of what people post. Under the Equal Employment Opportunity Act (EEOC), if an employee goes online to express concerns about illegal activity, such as discrimination, it is absolutely unlawful to retaliate against that employee by taking disciplinary action. Doing so can result in a lawsuit. For public sector employees, under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) dishing about wage details and other job conditions is also protected. Another important factor is considering how the employer learned of the employee’s social media activity. The employer has to be given access in a way that is freely accessible. For example, if the employee “friends” their boss on Facebook or follows coworkers on Twitter who share the post with the employer, then it is an acceptable method of accessing the information. If the employee uses company email or a business computer to tweet, the boss has open access to it and a legitimate right to view it. Also, any publicly accessible information, such as Glassdoor.com, can be viewed by employers.

The more we talk about the different scenarios the more convoluted it can be on both ends. But there are ways to simplify things. For employers, ensure there is a clear and specific social media policy in place located in the employee handbook and discussed with new hires. Ensure the policy complies fully with federal, state and regulatory laws. It’s also helpful to have an electronic policy in place regarding business resources for personal use. Clear policies can help clarify the blurred lines between work and personal life. To avoid legal but uncomfortable posts from friends and colleagues, consider a personal policy of limiting social media interactions with colleagues to LinkedIn, which is designed for professional networking.

For employees, be aware of your company’s policy on social media use. Depending on your personal use, consider limiting friendships with coworkers to LinkedIn. If you have particularly strong views on politics, religion, or other polarizing topics, think before you “follow”, “friend” or “connect” with coworkers on social media. Depending on your role and company, evaluate whether what you’re about to post is in your best interest or could come back to bite you later. A good rule of thumb is to visualize your post splashed on the front of the Wall Street Journal. If that idea makes you squirm, you probably shouldn’t post it.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. Social media can and does have many positive uses, such as employees posting about fun work events, great culture, or job openings. Sites such as LinkedIn are great networking tools amongst professionals in the same industry for keeping up with trends, education opportunities, and networking events. Employees posting on Facebook or tweeting on Twitter about their great job and company is always good PR. When it comes to smart social media use, the important takeaway is ensuring both employer and employee understand the rules.

6 Simple Tips to Help You Prepare to Use Trial Presentation Software

Working in the law firm setting prior to becoming a Trainer/Trial Tech gave me a better sense of direction and understanding that, to be successful in this field, you must know how to manage your case before you even step foot in the courtroom. Training attorneys, paralegals, consultants, videographers, and court reporters every day has given me a sense that not everyone knows how to properly organize and manage their documents.

Trial presentation software training
Training on TrialDirector, trial presentation software.

Whether you are a solo practitioner or part of a large law firm, organization is key. The funny thing about it is, from the bottom, all the way to the top, the process is the exact same. It would be unusual for a firm to be drastically different and then in return be more effective during a presentation.

As an example, using trial presentation software, such as TrialDirector, will not only help manage your case documents but also present them as well. However, you need to know how to organize your case documents before you put them in the software for these tools to benefit you. Sure, document management systems offer a wide variety of tools to assist in any way possible, but without prior knowledge of how to use the tools appropriately, and set yourself up for success, there is no sense in even using them at all.

However, before we get to the tips, let’s get on the same page of what case management and organization is, or should be.

Case Management

Why is it that case management gets overlooked when preparing for trial? All the focus seems to be on the presentation.

There is a big difference between case management and presentation. The presentation is the body in motion, creating rhythmic moves to entertain the audience – the jury. Case management is the brain controlling and moving the body parts that, in the end, tell a story.

Presentation, of course, is needed to tell a true and complete story. But add the ability to access and call up documents faster than ever, and you reach a level of engagement with your audience never before possible. This is why case management is so important. It allows you to use modern technology to its full potential, creating a sense of clean, uniform structure.

However, to get to that point, proper and efficient case organization and management must be done to ensure your case will look clean and presentable when you put it into the software. Relying on presentation alone is not an avenue of approach when it comes to being successful in trial. The smaller things in trial indeed matter too. Not only do you need to think big picture, but every little proactive approach to processing a legal matter are in the end crucial to winning your case.

So, how do you get from Point A, the law firm, to point B, the courtroom? Consider these six tips in preparation for your next case or even the case you’re working on now.

1. Indexing

Indexing basically comes down to the who, what, where, when and how of your client, and/or third party documents. So, why should you even put in the time to index? Some law firms do not typically index their documents at all or until later during Discovery. Indexing is the process of gathering information or data that directly corresponds with documents being received by your client and or any third parties associated with your case.

Using programs such as Microsoft Excel can dramatically change your organization of your documents for the better and improve importing data into your document management and trial presentation software.

Recording document identifiers, dates received, whom it’s from, type of document, descriptions, production numbers…etc., will in fact significantly make things easier down the road. Below is an example of a typical spreadsheet you could easily create on your own.

Document indexing example
An example of how to set up a spreadsheet in Excel for indexing.

2. Identifying Document ID’s

Properly identifying your documents is one of the biggest issues we run into when it comes to firms and companies managing their case. Whether it’s training a law firm how to properly build a case or consulting for a law firm, your client review documents must be properly identified.

The law firms that we train and consult for typically have long superfluous descriptions as their document identifiers. Utilize smaller naming conventions, such as bates numbers or exhibit numbers and the descriptions of that document can then be used in a separate field. By doing so, it makes importing and case managing your documents much easier, as opposed to relying on long, unnecessary identifiers.

There are shortcuts that can be taken in your presentation software, as well as programs to download to help re-identify a batch of documents, but why not start early and avoid re-doing time-consuming work?

3. Specific File Formats

Specific types of file formats are necessary and easier to use. Let’s be honest here. The entire industry is transitioning over to Portable Document Formats, also known as PDFs. Maintaining the original file formats is important and relevant, but as soon as you can, convert all your documents to PDF’s.

Utilizing native files in presentation software has its pitfalls. Incorporating a native file that is not a PDF will not allow the user to annotate or edit a document while presenting. Converting to PDFs creates a consistent file format that in the end is easier to work with.

Not only is it easier, but it is a multipage document as well, to where programs by default organize in alphanumeric order and automatically paginate for you.

If you are not concerned with resolution or separation of your documents, then convert them to PDFs.

4. Rotating and De-Duplication

Rotating and de-duplicating your documents should be standard practice and not overlooked.

Rotating your documents to a landscape or portrait layout can dramatically change how those documents are to be presented in court. However, this does depend greatly on the image itself. Make sure to look at the document or image and make sure it is properly rotated so that presenting it would not bring up any delays or issues in court.

As you review your documents, you always want to make sure you get rid of any duplicates, to ensure your presentation is flawless.

5. Centralizing Your Case

Centralization of your documents within your file explorer is organizational gold. When document review starts, it’s essential to centralize your documents in organized folders. The organized folders should all be placed into one folder that could, for example, be your main case folder (e.g. Jones vs. Smith).

Knowing where your documents are all located, whether it’s in a network folder, local C: Drive, cloud or external drive creates a sense of security and organization. This only increases your chances of maintaining your centralization and organization upon creating your case in your presentation software program.

6. Game Plan

Finally, a game plan is key to putting everything together at the end. When it comes to a game plan, as a consultant and or paralegal at a law firm, you want to go in with an organized and detailed approach to how you will be managing your files.

Prepare a checklist beforehand to make sure you have covered all you want to accomplish before going to court. Knowing the smaller things that are directly associated with managing your case will directly impact how well you perform in the hot seat.

Final Words

Perhaps to you, these tips seem obvious, or quite easy, but in my experience, they’re not to the average person. It all begins with the firm’s general practice. Having a standard general practice will initiate the process by default for all team members to properly manage case documents.

If it’s not your firm’s general practice to properly case manage your documents in preparation for trial, then you are already setting your team behind. You need to convince yourself, and your firm that putting in the time and money beforehand, will then in return save you time and money getting ready for and going to trial.

So, with all your case organization and management skills being used before trial begins, why is this relevant or how does this correlate with the presentation? The steps you would use to prepare your documents for trial also directly apply or correlate within your software. It all comes together when creating, building, managing and presenting your case in court.

By taking the necessary steps before trial, you only increase your chances of being successful. Some of you might be thinking that this is unnecessary and takes away from other tasks at hand, but I guarantee it will make you better prepared in the end. As I instruct all my trainees, “Managing your case, is more important than presenting.” If you properly organize and prepare your exhibits, then the presentation portion is a piece of cake.

The smaller things in trial matter.

Discussion

What are some tips you have found successful when using document management and trial presentation software?

Let us know on social media! You can connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

You can contact Ethan, the author of this post, on LinkedIn or by email at ehirsch@trialdirectoruniversity.com. Ethan is the Lead Technical Trainer at inData Corporation.

Learn more about TrialDirector and how it can help you by visiting our website. Already have TrialDirector? Consider participating in one of our training courses.

5 File Naming Tips to Improve Organization in Document Management Software

In our experience, one of the main things many trial teams have trouble with is naming case files on the computer. The names they use for their files are too descriptive and long.

For example, many attorneys use either a short or long description, sometimes even full sentences, as a file name as seen below.

One descriptive file name
One descriptive file name. Not so bad, right?

A descriptive name may make sense at first since it tells exactly what the file is, but when you’re working with hundreds or thousands of documents as is common today, those descriptive names get cluttered and make things difficult to find. See for yourself.

Full list of descriptive file names
A full list of descriptive file names. Ew.

It’s like all the words are mashing together. There’s no standard here. Some files could get named incorrectly. You may forget what you named a certain file, and now it’s lost with everything else. And trying to find what you need here, especially when you’re trying to find it fast, would be needlessly time-consuming.

Case organization and trial preparation programs are great tools for streamlining document review and presentation workflows. However, if the files you’re putting into them are not identifiable in simple and manageable ways, using this technology only makes the process more frustrating.

Consider the following tips when receiving, scanning, or creating case files on your computer. They will help you make life easier for you as the case progresses.

1. Know what your documents are before you put them into your working case folder

This may seem like an obvious one, but many attorneys don’t really know what they are copying into a case folder until they go back to look at them later. For example, a lawyer or paralegal may receive several gigabytes worth of documents from the opposition and just dump all those directly into their computer’s hard drive without glancing at them first.

When you do this and start working on a case strategy, there’s not a frame of reference for where to begin.

It’s better to take some time to understand and review exactly what you’re working with at a general level. What file types are you working with? How are things currently organized and how can it be better?

One option is to create a bulk folder where you can dump all the case files. Then, go through and review each one, pulling the relevant documents you want into a different “working” case folder. Doing this separates the important items from the fluff, and now you know anything in the working case folder is at the very least semi-important to your strategy.

While you review and move the items as explained above, you can rename each file, which leads us to our next few suggestions.

2. Keep it simple

When it comes right down to it, you need to name your documents in a way that makes the most sense for you. However, think about how you can make it a little easier on your future self as you reference and search for the items you need.

You want to name your case items in a way that you can know what they are at a glance, and you also want to make it easy on yourself when you and the opposition are referencing each item during negotiations or trial.

A common file naming practice is using a descriptive phrase to help identify the item. We said before how long descriptions can be troublesome when working with several hundred files, but even short, two or three-word files names are troublesome, because all those words still get cluttered together.

Also, keep in mind that most any organization software will sort your files alphanumerically. So, when you try to organize your files according to descriptive phrases using technology, your files may end up out of order, or at least not sorted in the way you want.

When using software, there are usually other properties or fields where you can enter more descriptive identifiers. Save the file name for more orderly and systematic identification as described in the next tip.

3. Rename everything with a standard naming convention

Yes, you read that right. Rename everything, and use a standard, alphanumeric system.

Maybe this seems a little drastic at first, but if done correctly, it pays dividends down the road when you’re referencing these items with your own team and the other parties involved in the case.

We would suggest you simply number your case items using leading zeroes as shown below.

Leading zeroes.
An example of leading zeroes.

The reason you should use leading zeroes is that without them, your case items may get disorganized. Case organization tools for the most part use databases to reference your case items. Databases usually do not read whole numbers, which means that the database orders numbers by whatever digit comes first.

For example, if I have 10 exhibits in my case, and I named each exhibit by its corresponding number, it would appear in the database as follows.

Whole numbers
An example of what a database would look like with whole numbers.

Notice the “10” exhibit is out of order right below “1”.

The basic rule for using leading numbers is that you use the same number of digits as the total number of your documents. So, if your case only has 34 documents, use two digits in your numbering system (e.g “01”, “02”, “03”, etc.). You can then go up to a total of 99 documents before things get out of order.

If your case has 335 documents, use three digits in your numbering system (e.g. “001”, “002”, “003”, etc.). You can then go up to a total of 999 documents before things get out of order.

What if you have several images that are pages of the same document? While we do recommend you use PDFs so that you don’t have to worry so much about this, you can use another set of leading zeroes for each page of the document like this:

  • 001-001 <– Page 1 of document 001
  • 001-002 <– Page 2 of document 001
  • 001-003 <– Page 3 of document 001

And so on.

There are some situations where you may want to modify this system. For example, you may be really attached to that descriptive phrase for each file. In that case, enter the exhibit number before the phrase like this “001-False Claims”.

Though your files may still get cluttered, at least you can reference them easily with other because of the numbers preceding the phrase.

What if the opposition is using the same naming convention as you? That means you’ll probably run into two different files being named the same thing. In that case, enter the initials of the party responsible for the documents before the numbers like this, “DX001”. That way, it’s easier to distinguish between two documents with the same file number.

There are countless ways to use the suggestions above to fit your own needs. Whatever naming convention you decide to use, apply it to everything. That way, when you need to find something months or years down the road, there’s no surprises and you can quickly find what you’re looking for.

If you decide not to go with your own numbering system, you might want to follow the next tip.

4. Use exhibit numbers or bates numbers

This tip is much more self-explanatory. Name all your items after an exhibit number or bates number.

The benefit of naming your documents this way is that it makes the transition between discovery, review, preparation, and trial so much easier. By using either of these numbers, you don’t have to rename any files as you transition to each phase.

You can do this even if you don’t think you will go to trial and it will still benefit you.

Now, let’s just stop for a moment. We understand you might have some other concerns about our tips so far. Let’s look at the next tip first.

5. Use the other properties of a document for more familiar, long-form identifiers

You might be saying to yourself, “Now all I have are numbers. None of these numbers really help me know what’s inside of a document without opening it.”

Yes, that’s true. The tips we’ve covered so far are for easier organization and reference. For identifying what is inside a file, or getting a summary of the file’s contents, we suggest you use other identification properties that case organization tools provide.

For example, in TrialDirector, you can use the Common Name field to enter a descriptive phrase to any file you want. So, if you and your team usually refer to an important letter in the case as “The Manifesto” you can enter that as the Common Name and quickly find it that way.

The beauty of doing it this way is that though your team may refer to a document that way, that’s not the way the court refers to it. But since you followed the tips above, finding and providing the right document with the right trial exhibit number is no problem.

Compound that with all the other documents you’re working with on your case, and you’ve saved quite a bit of time.

Conclusion

Implementing these suggestions makes it that much easier to organize, reference, and even import your documents into an evidence and case management system.

Properly naming your case files is essential as you work through the entire case process. Some attorneys often don’t put the right time and attention into naming their files, thinking that they’ll remember where the important files are, or that it’ll be easy to find them later.

That’s all fine, up until they realize that the case documents keep stacking up and suddenly they can’t remember what they named that really important image and now it’s mixed in with all the other documents, images, and videos you added to the case over time.

Often, by neglecting to put time into naming files properly, you’re making it so much harder to save time and reduce headaches down the road.

Learn more about TrialDirector and how it can help you by visiting our website.

How do you name your case files? What strategy works best for you?

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