Following is described by Morris R. Osborne, a method by which the documents of a law office may be kept in easily accessible form.
The ordinary method of filing papers in the legal department of a large corporation is generally that used in most law offices - that of placing all the documents in a case, in a large envelope, writing each step that is taken, and of making a notation of each document on the envelope, and filing the envelope alphabetically under the name of one of the parties. The disadvantages of this method are many. In the first place, the envelope used is rarely printed so that important information can be prominently displayed, and the whole envelope must be searched to discover what disposition has been made of the case. Then, the space on the envelope, even if both sides are used, often proves insufficient to contain all the steps which are taken, and it is inconvenient to provide another envelope merely for writing purposes. Also, these envelopes are usually filed in a vault, and eventually become torn and mutilated and the writing on them undecipherable.
With this system attention is called to cases by means of a note, made on some calendar, or more often by memory, and in this way it very often happens that action is not taken on the day on which it should be, and damage often results.
In order to obviate these disadvantages, there is here presented a system which is as easily handled as the old envelope method, and which gives much better results. By its use all the information concerning a case is available at a moment's notice without the delay of searching in a vault, and with the ordinary amount of care no necessary action on a case can be overlooked.
The matters which come into the legal department are of various natures, but may generally be divided into two classes - those in which the company itself is plaintiff, or at least aggressor, and those in which the company is defendant. These may be treated distinct from each other, if desired, but I have found it perfectly suitable to handle them in the same way. Accordingly, as each case is received in the department, a card is made out for it - a yellow card for claims against customers and similar matters and a white one for actions against the company. These cards contain spaces for the names and addresses of the parties to the case, the names of any other persons, such as witnesses, who may be involved. The nature of the claim is to be described in a suitable space and a prominent place is left for an entry as to the ultimate disposition of the case. Thus, by reference to the card, it can be told at a glance whether the case has been settled or not, and, if so, how.
These cards are numbered consecutively, and when made out are filed alphabetically under the name of the person involved. At the same time that the card is made out, an envelope or folder is taken, bearing the same number as the card, and all papers pertaining to the case are placed in it. These envelopes are filed numerically in a vertical file, from which they are instantly obtainable by reference to the cards, should it be necessary to consult any of the papers or insert new ones.
As soon as the case is received, some action is taken, and a notation to this effect is made on the card. The card is then filed alphabetically, a computation made as to the date on which the next step ought to be taken, and a tab placed over that date in the list of numbers at the top of the card. As each step is taken, a note to that effect is made on the card, and the tab pushed forward to the next date when action is necessary. The back of the card is ruled, so that when the space available for entries on the front has been utilized, more information may be entered on the back.
When the case has been brought to some conclusion, a notation to that effect is made and the card removed from the live file and placed in a general case, where it is available should any question arise in the future, as it often does, concerning the adjustment.
By a rapid glance over the tabs, all the cases which need attention on one day, and for two or three days to come, can be located at once. In order to facilitate location of the cards, it has been found helpful to indicate ordinary claims by a black tab, justice shop cases by a red one, and cases in an upper court by a white one. Another valuable factor in this system is that only the live matters are before one at any time.