System requirements are determined primarily by
record type, space, and retrieval ease. Most legal services programs need
to maintain these file types:
• case files (active/open case file or
inactive/closed case file)
• administrative or general files
• financial files
• brief and pleadings files
• legal form files
• administrative form files
A. Case Files
Case files occupy the greatest amount of filing space and require the most
frequent retrieval. Estimating case file space requirements depends on
staff and caseload levels.
a. What is your maximum anticipated staffing level -- particularly
advocates -- over the next three years?
b. Given your anticipated staffing level, what is the projected number of
cases that will be opened over the next three-year period?
c. What is the maximum number of open cases that can be handled by staff
at any time?
d. What percentage of these cases are "routine"? Non-routine cases can
require many times the normal amount of paperwork.
An average file drawer can contain approximately 4,000 legal documents.
See A Yardstick for Legal Records and Information Retrieval, Economics of
Law Practice Series, Pamphlet # 11, American Bar Association, 1969, p. 2.
Estimate the number of documents a routine case generates. Multiply this
number by maximum projected open caseload level to reach open case filing
space requirements. Multiply the same number by the projected three year
caseload to estimate of total open and closed case filing space
requirements for three years. Space requirements will be greater if you
anticipate a significant percentage of non-routine cases. Be sure to
include a margin of error in your projections.
Ease of retrieving open case files should influence your filing system
choice. Retrieval is a less important consideration for closed files,
which can be moved to some relatively inaccessible location. However,
depending on your record retention policy, the space required for closed
files can continue to grow over the years. The time allotted to keeping
closed files is an important factor in your system design.
B. Administrative or General Files
Records in this file include:
• corporate records
• grantor records
• internal management records
• personnel records
• miscellaneous records, e.g., address list,
meeting minutes, etc.).
Store personnel records separate from other administrative records in a
locked cabinet. Each personnel file should include, among other items, a
completed application form; resume; any tests given to the employee; all
performance reviews; notices of change of status, salary increases,
disciplinary actions,; copies of medical or dental insurance claims;
sheets used for notation of qualifications during interview(s); reference
checks and recommendations; a copy of the letter offering the position;
and the acceptance letter.
C. Financial Files
All records of accounts payable, accounts receivable, budgets and budget
preparation materials; back-up data for funds spent, such as bids, letters
of authorization, payroll records; tax forms and returns; client trust
fund records; and the myriad of other paper work generated by a program's
File these records in the accounting or bookkeeping office in a fireproof
safe with all original entry ledgers and other irreplaceable financial
D. Brief and Pleadings Files
These selected pieces of legal work are resources for handling legal
problems. Some programs have begun to computerize these files and putting
them on line.
E. Legal Form Files
Compilation of all legal forms used to handle client problems. They are
organized in a loose-leaf notebooks or file folders. Many programs buy off
the shelf software -- particularly in practice areas requiring court forms
such as family and landlord tenant law -- allowing staff to complete forms
on the computer. Some programs have digitalized commonly used files so
that they can be completed on the computer. Document assembly programs
such as Hot Docs allow programs to assemble common documents in minutes.
F. Administrative Form Files
Compilation of all forms used in the general operation of the program,
e.g., travel reimbursement, compensatory time, etc.