Filenaming and Directory Structure

by Kendall Callas

The documents you are now accumulating will be valuable for years to come. By planning for easy reference and re-use of your library of text, you can get the most value out of your firm's collected work product.

Directories and filenames are the two tools DOS and WordPerfect offer you. How well you use them will determine how easy it is to find documents later.

If you're just starting out and have only a handful of documents, you probably don't yet understand why all this is worth planning. The typical law firm accumulates well over 1,000 files a year, so plan now to avoid lost files, ease backups, and delete files when your hard disk begins to fill up.

First, Decide What Not to Keep

You don't need to save it all. Transmittal letters, minor memos, fax cover sheets, non-client related documents -- many files need not be retained on the system, especially if there's a copy in your paper files. Make a directory called DISCARD or TRASH where such short-lived files can be stored temporarily -- just in case -- then purge it weekly or monthly. Alternatively, establish a policy that all files with the extension .TMP will be deleted periodically; utility programs (with names like "XX"or "SWEEP") are widely available that can search all directories to perform such a task. (If you've set WordPerfect to backup your documents as you edit them, deleting the .BK! backup files periodically is a good way to clear disk space.)

Design Directories for Storage and Retrieval

The hard disk, like a file cabinet, can be sub-divided in different ways. Directories, like drawers in the cabinet, allow you to group files into logical categories.

When designing your directory structure, keep in mind your paper filing system. But also consider who creates files (group by user or author), and how someone will look for files later (by client or matter).

Atty1       Atty2       Atty3
  |           |           |
  |           |           |
Case1       Case2       Case3

Key factors in designing a system include whether you're networked and the number of users and practice areas. Most law firms organize documents by client, then by matter (name or #). Depending on the number of files that will accumulate, some firms further break down the structure with PLD, LTR, and MISC directories.

Client1      Client2      Client3
    |           |           |
    |           |           |
 Matter1     Matter2     Matter3
    |           |           |
    |           |           |
   PLD         MISC        LTR

Circumstances sometimes call for a more elaborate breakdown under Matter#, with directory names like CORR, AGREE, PLEAD, MEMO, DEPO, and MASTER. A large firm might require division by department (CORP, LIT, PATENT, BANK, RE, PROBATE, LABOR, HRD, ACCT, ADMIN, MKTG, etc.), then 3-letter directories underneath for each user, then Client#, then Matter#.

To help users navigate directories, create macros to perform these tasks:

Filename Extensions

A filename (up to 8 characters) usually abbreviates the subject, recipient, or client involved. To further identify documents within a directory, when you name a file you have the option of tacking on an "extension" -- a period plus 1, 2, or 3 more characters.

Extensions, like filenames, are flexible -- you get to make them up to suit your needs. The filename or extension may include numbers, letters, and symbols. The extension is usually used to indicate document type; but it may also encode the author's initials (ELECTARB.KMC) or the version number (CA-RULES.013). You can pack the month and year into 3 characters (MINUTES.992) by using letters for the 2-digit months; "O" for October, "N" for November, "D" for December (SMITHEXP.N92).

Trailer macro "stamps" full path and filename at bottom of document: {Home}{Home}{Down} {Enter}{Flush Right} {Font}ss {SYSTEM}Path~ {SYSTEM}Name~

Depending on your needs, there are various ways of packing clues about the document into its filename. Here's a simple approach -- CCCCxxxx.EXT -- 4-character client name abbreviation (or code) + 4 extra characters available to further identify the matter or document, plus an extension (see the list below).

The important thing is to carefully examine your own needs; look at the documents you produce in your practice. Experiment. Discuss.

Beware unwieldy filenames!

Extensions vs. Directories

One goal in using directories is to keep the number of files shown on a List Files screen down to a manageable level. It takes time to sort the files displayed on this screen; you can keep response time short by keeping the number of files down.

Well structured directories relieve the need to pack details into a filename. A file in a matter# directory, within a client directory, need not identify the client or matter within the filename.

Generally, it's better to use extensions (see list below) to mark categories of documents within a matter. Then, at the List Files/F5 screen, you can use action #9, the Find function (called "Word Search" before v5.1) to search all the matter's files, yet you can still use the asterisk (*) wildcard to list just a subset (say, F5, *.LTR, Enter).

Tips on Naming Directories

To ease navigating and typing paths, keep the structure low -- avoid many levels of directories.

Don't branch document directories off the WordPerfect program directory ("WP51"). Use a directory with a short and clear name (\DOCS, \WORK, \CLIENT, or \CL) for greater flexibility and ease of use.

Keep directory names short.

Every system should have directories named \DOS, \WP, \UTIL, ADMIN and FORMS.

For ease of use (and by tradition), directory names are not given extensions; that is, "WP51", not "WP.51". A worthwhile exception is naming client+matter directories client.matter# (e.g. RILEYC.002).

Example document "paths":


If you use codes for clients or matters, make sure a Case List cross-reference is readily available (preferably via macro) so that a user may use Search/F2 to look up the code by the client name, case name, contact person's name, or phone number.

Example Filename Extensions

ACK Acknowledgment
ADD Addendum
AFF Affidavit
AGR Agreement
AMD Amendment
ANS Answer
ART Article(s)
BRF Brief
BYL Bylaws
CRT Certificate
COD Codicil
COM Complaint
CON Consent
XAN Cross-Answer
XCM Cross-Complaint
DEC Declaration
DEE Deed
DSC Disclosure
DIS Dismissal
DMD Demand
DMR Demurrer
DOT Deed of Trust
DFT Draft
DPA Durable Power of Atty
ESC Escrow
EXH Exhibit
FAX Facsimile
FRM Form
GRT Grant
GTY Guaranty
NDX Index
INS Insert
INT Interrogatories
JI Jury Instructions
LBL Label(s)
LSE Lease
LTR Letter
LIC License
LST List
MMO Memo
MIN Minutes
MOT Motion
NOT Notice
OAT Oath
OFR Offer
OPN Opinion
ORD Order
OUT Outline
PET Petition
PLN Plan
PLD Pleading
P&A Points & Authorities
PRO Procedure(s)
PRM Promissory Note
POS Proof of Service
PXY Proxy
QST Questionnaire
REJ Rejection
REL Release
RPY Reply
RPT Report
REQ Request
RES Resolution
RSP Response
SAT Satisfaction
SCH Schedule
SET Settlement
SMT Statement
STP Stipulation
SUB Subpoena
SDT Subpoena Duces Tecum
SUM Summary
SUP Supplement
TBL Table
TOA Table of Authorities
TOC Table of Contents
TLX Telex
TRN Transcript
VER Verification
WIL Will
RIT Writ

Copyright (C) 1996 by microCounsel, (415) 921-6850. All rights reserved.

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