When reviewing numerous case management software packages for law firms, we never cease to be amazed at the number of overpriced packages that have “automatically generate a case number” at the top of the list of features, as if that were a difficult or even impressive package feature. Also, most of these packages just create a 6 digit number and start at 000001, then go to 000002 and so on and don’t allow you to customize it.
We propose that case numbers should be codes that tell you much more than a simple number, but at the same time should have a simple format so that you can easily create them and read them in a jiffy.
Let’s look at a simple but informative case number:
Let’s break this down a bit:
- 20100310 is the date. Use descending date format as it is easier to look up cases with a time frame reference. Descending dates are ordered starting with year, then month, then day, so in the example above the case started on March 10, 2010.
- Next is a two-digit code of your choice that indicates what type of case it is. In our example above, “FL” stands for “Family Law”. Here are some suggestions: CL – Contract Law, PP – Product/Process, CD – Criminal Defense, etc. You can skip this if you only practice one type of law.
- Your subcode is a second two-letter code that clarifies the nature of the case. In our family law example above, “CC” stands for Child Custody. Make a list of applicable sub-codes and keep them in a “reference file” along with your case type codes from #2.
- Using the client’s initials as part of your case number is optional, depending on the sensitivity of the case and the client’s desire for anonymity. In our example, we made up the name “Jane Smith” and used JS. We definitely do not recommend using the customer’s name in the case number.
- If you have a client who may provide multiple cases, enclose the actual number of the case for that client in parentheses. In this example, this would be our 9th case for Jane Smith. If it is an isolated case with a low chance of repeat orders from this customer, you do not need to enter any numbers at the end.
Hints and tips:
- When creating a case record number, use this when naming word processing or spreadsheet files so that everything can be searched and/or accessed by case number. Also write the number on all binders and use them on stickers that can be placed on CD/DVD cases, cassette tapes, evidence boxes, etc.
- Naming your computer files also makes searching easier, since most systems allow you to search for a portion of the filename using some sort of “wildcard” such as the asterisk *. For example, if you want a list of all family law cases in 2010, enter the search string 2010*FL*.doc (if you are looking for Microsoft Word ® files). Additionally, by simply listing them by file name, they are automatically displayed in chronological order based on their case number alone.
- Instead of buying complex and overpriced software bundles, you can just use the software that probably came with your computer, such as B. Your word processor and spreadsheet mentioned above, as well as a calendar/contact program such as Microsoft Outlook ® .
For more information on case management for paralegals and attorneys visit: www.theattorneycasefile.com.
(Copyright 2010 – Paul Purcell. Permission granted to share this article provided all parts remain intact.)