SUSTAINING YOUR DIGITAL OFFICE AFTER THE INITIAL SET-UP
Even after crossing the initial hurdle of scanning your files, thus inaugurating a digital version of your office, sustaining the set-up in the long-run is altogether a different ballgame.
For this purpose, it is imperative to devise and implement a regular maintenance routine. Please note that there cannot be a 'one size fits all' formula in this regard. You should formulate your own method depending on your office requirement.
In this post, I have given some broad points to be taken note of while devising your maintenance policy. Then, I have briefly shared the routine I follow in my office. Lastly, I have suggested an alternative solution if your clerk is not equipped to maintain the digital setup.
1. BROAD POINTERS
The routine should be simple: Don't over-complicate the daily maintenance process; the simpler it is, the better.
Maintain folder formats: Standardise your folders and maintain them in formats. Whenever a new folder of a given type is to be opened, your clerk only needs to copy it from the 'folder formats' and rename it.
For example, i want a set number of sub-folders whenever a new case file is opened. The clerk, instead of opening all these subfolders every-time, simply copies-pastes-renames an empty folder, already containing all these sub-folders (also empty) from folder formats. This reduces the risk of clerical mistakes in repetitive tasks.
Follow a strict updation routine: Whenever a new petition is filed or a reply is received, the corresponding digital folder should be updated without fail simultaneously with the physical file.
Take feedback and review periodically: Whatever system you develop, please appreciate that it is your clerical staff who have to implement it. Unless they are comfortable with the system, it will eventually fail. Therefore, take their feedback periodically and work to iron out the creases, so that the whole process runs like a well-oiled machine.
2. THE SYSTEM I FOLLOW FOR UPDATING MY DIGITAL CASE FILES
I am only sharing my office's system as an illustration. The same exactly may not work for your office. Devise your own system depending on your office's requirements. Before proceeding further, i suggest you finish reading Office 2.0 and the post on 'numerical method' for folders and files.
Any development on a given day which affects case files could lead to the following:
Creation of a new case file
Addition of contents to an existing case file
Removal of a case file
In my office, a 'Daily updates register' is maintained on Google Docs. As soon any development occurs, it is notified on the office WhatsApp group. Thereafter, it is the clerk's responsibility to regularly update the developments on the 'daily updates register'.
Thereafter, he scans the files and performs CPBH.
New Filing: If there is a new filing, along with the physical file, a digital folder is simultaneously opened prefixed by the same 'office file number' assigned to the case.
Addition to an existing file: All new additions to a file are added in the respective digital folders.
Removal of a case: The entire case-file folder as on that day is cut from the 'Pending Matters' folder and pasted in the 'Disposed of matters' folder.
3. WHAT IF YOUR CLERK IS NOT ADEPT AT DAILY MAINTENANCE?
In my post on 'training your clerk to perform digital tasks', I suggested few practical perspectives to motivate your clerk to perform digital tasks.
However, I understand that the task is easier said than done. In many offices, clerks are not adept at performing these tasks. Many advocates also operate with part-time clerks, who may not be willing to perform these tasks.
If you are a young lawyer with few files, you can manage to perform these tasks yourself. But, if you have a busy functioning office, you can not be boggled down with these tasks.
Does it mean that you should give-up on your digitisation pursuit? Not necessarily.
If you observe the the office maintenance process narrated above, you will notice that the entire process, except for scanning, need not be performed in your office.
If you can arrange for your clerk or office-boy to merely scan the files, the remaining digital procedures could be performed remotely on a part-time basis as these tasks do not take more than an hour or two for daily implementation. Moreover, these back-end procedures are a pure desk-job.
Alternatively, multiple offices can commonly employ a person adept in computer skills, to perform these tasks. This will also fractionalise the whole expenditure you would otherwise incur for maintaining your digital office.