Organizing Legal Files?

My fiance's disorganization is dividing us! I am VERY serious here so PLEASE respond if you have ANY suggestions. My fiance is a brainiac! He is a psychologist, so we have thousands of papers on evaluations he has done to determine if someone is competent to stand trial and articles about psychology. He is also a lawyer so we have files here at home containing information about clients that he has represented in court.


He is also a forensic expert, specializing in the field of false confessions, eyewitnesses, memory, and death penalty cases involving the mentally ill; therefore, of course, we have thousands of papers, newspaper articles, etc' in involving this. In addition, he is also a college professor, so we LITERALLY have a library in our basement containing thousands of books and hundreds of boxes of papers about the subjects in which he teaches (psychology, law).

Lawyers from all over the country are forevermore sending him videotapes of police interrogations, transcripts of trials that are now on appeal, and letters and faxes. Sadly, he has not organized any of this so it is sitting everywhere! Ever since I moved in with him I have been trying to organize this stuff to no degree.

He refuses to get rid of any of it since he may someday need to reference any of this material. Besides, it is against the law for him to get rid of client's files for twelve-years, I believe. We do have plenty of room to organize these things. However, I have NO CLUE how to start or where to start. Please, please, please...any suggestions will help!

Desperately drowning in papers & books!


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By (Guest Post)
July 18, 20050 found this helpful

Oh my! And I thought I was disorganized! It sounds like you will be needing large file cabinets for each subject. Just take it in baby steps. If you keep thinking of the whole picture, you'll certainly become terribly depressed over it.


Plus - they are HIS papers. How about enlisting weekend help from HIM for this project? Good luck to you!!!

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By (Guest Post)
July 18, 20050 found this helpful

i too am in a similar but reversed situation. i am a clinical social worker married to a pack rat. one solution might be to designate an area for storage, either in the house or at a separate location (office, storage unit, etc.) and agree that this will be the only place he may store his stuff. at least it won't be in your way and you'll have psychological relief from the overload (out of sight, out of mind). this scenario works for me. my husband has a home office and the garage which are off limits for me and in which he can store things as messily as he wants. usually about once a year he gets frustrated with it building up and de-clutters.


make this his problem not yours. as your fiance well knows, he is simply justifying his irrational need to hoard, which suggests a stronger underlying pathology and control issues. don't make this your problem. if he's always been this way, you're trying to change a part of his personality and he's going to resist. he doesn't see it as a problem.
if that doesn't work, you may have to hire and orgaizational expert to get you started. much of the info can be scanned and stored on CD's. this will take some time, but it will be well worth the expense and piece of mind. he can always have the professional organizer sign a binding confidentiality contract. hope this helps.

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By Holly (Guest Post)
July 18, 20050 found this helpful

1. talk to the head librarian of your local library.

2. categorize everthing according to names and cross reference it with dates and events


3. this is a full time job!

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By Jeneene (Guest Post)
July 18, 20050 found this helpful

First, start with an excel spreadsheet. This will help you find things after you have organized them. Print out a blank sheet so you can write on it with a pencil, then enter into the computer.

Next, determine how to organize things. If some items are used in several of his professions, then I would do the whole thing alphabetically. If not, then some cabinets/drawers/boxes could be for each. The most important thing is to list everything on the spreadsheet so that you can find it with very little trouble.

You could even just start putting things in those wonderful office boxes and listing them as Box 1, Box 2, etc. As long as the contents were in the spreadsheet where you can use the Find command, you will be ok to do it that way.


I think that's what I would do, because otherwise you'd spend your whole time trying to organize before placing stuff.

You don't need the most expensive boxes, all of them work well...from Staples, officemax, etc. They are modular and easy to move around.

Use as many words as you need on the spreadsheet... Diane Foster Breast Implant Feb. 2004 would be an example.

Good luck!

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By Cheryl from Missouri (Guest Post)
July 18, 20050 found this helpful

I would file the papers and videos for each case or subject into accordian folders and have two distinct sections. File client information by last name/date and any reference material by subject. Create an INACTIVE file once the case has been settled or his work is done. Keep inactive files in last name/date order so it will be easy to locate IF needed.

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By Beverly (Guest Post)
July 18, 20050 found this helpful

If you have the space I would buy several file cabinets as well as file folders or hanging files, whichever you prefer, then file alphabetically, using the person's last name if it is a client or patient, or a keyword if it is subject matter.

Maybe one file cabinet for all Forensics, one for psychology, etc.

I love to do this kind of thing, wish I could help you with it.


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By Kathy (Guest Post)
July 18, 20050 found this helpful

I work for a real estate company and we have soooo much paperwork with listings and closings. My boss purchased a scanning system where we take everything ( and I mean everything!) receipts, legal docs, etc. and scan them in. You create a program tailored to your needs (clients name, dates, cases, for example). After you scan it in YOU THROW THE ORIGINALS AWAY! As long as you back up your system you are safe. We would'nt be able to do it if it was not safe for legal purposes ourselves. Then everything is stored on neat tidy CD's ;-) We have been able to elimate all of our filing cabinets. Then catatgorize his books and you are set!

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By Kathryn (Guest Post)
July 19, 20050 found this helpful

I agree with Cheryl (from Missouri); however, I would also write (in pencil) the "purge" date of an item. The purge date would be 12 years from the last time the file was active. I doubt most files will become active again once completed.

Also, once each case has been collected in its own accordian file, he needs some way to organize them so he can find it on a moments notice. I'd take Jeneene's advice and set up an Excel document to help keep track of a number of different facts about the case (name, date, subject, counselors, etc.). The purge date can also be listed and, rather than perform a manual search, a quick "Find" will list files ready to be tossed (okay, shredded).

Your fiance sounds like a busy man who doesn't seem to understand he's not doing himself or his clients any good by allowing this disorganization to continue. Perhaps an organizational consultant could help him set up not only the task of collating and organizing but also assist him in creating a routine for new (incoming) work.

Forgive a basic question: does he know how you feel about the papers? However you approach the subject be sure and let him know it's something you want to work out with him rather than simply do to his "stuff".

Good luck to you both.

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By Guest (Guest Post)
July 19, 20050 found this helpful

How did this become YOUR job? If he has all the credentials you say he has, why doesn't he have an office, and a professional paralegal to keep these files for him?
Home should be HOME if financially possible. You're putting yourself in a position to get blamed for missing files/tapes/papers.
If you can't live with clutter, this might be the wrong man for you.

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July 20, 20050 found this helpful

Talk to your fiance and let him know how you feel.
I agree "how did this become your job". He may resent you touching his "stuff". Find out if HE is
willing to hire someone to SCAN documents and sort them onto CD's. There are companies who do this for doctors, etc .. and he can claim it as a business expensive and it will not be your job so if something does get lost, it wasnt YOU.
I let my husb handle HIS paperwork separate as he tends to misplace things and says 'WHO took it?" instead of "umm wonder where I put that?"
Let us know. Marriage is about compromise.
I was single and lived ALONE and married mid-30's
and resented my husb sleeping in "my bed". He said
fine and we got a new "our bed". This went on for 3 months and I would push him out of my bed as I slept, it was wierd sharing my bed. I had no problems sharing anything else. Funny things we humanes do. Good luck and hopefully you will
get this solved BEFORE the wedding.

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By KLS8800 (Guest Post)
July 20, 20050 found this helpful

Okay. I understand this. I keep my files organised this way. I have a large plastic container with a hinged lid. It carries hanging files. Red folders for things such as taxes, paystubs, rent (or mortgage), and child support/court cases of personal (NOT professional) nature. Blue folders for normal bills, power, phone, cable... Yellow folders for the kids' health, doctor, medical things. I have a smoke grey plastic see through folder for Birth certificates, immunisations, and such.

PROFESSIONALLY: He sounds multi talented. Scanning to disk is a *MUST* you just cannot manage that size of paper load in a home setting (and in some business settings as well) without going looney tooney. The professional to do all that scanning or putting to disk is a good idea. Now, he has to compromise. Yes, have all you need at home, but driving you out of house and home with papers isn't a viable option. Get disk folders (or whatever they may be called now). Also get an electronic labeling machine (puts out that little strip of paper with your info on it). Have him designate a colour for each seperate subject. Red for law, Blue for psychology, etc. When labelling, use bold lettering for ACTIVE, PENDING cases, references, etc, and maybe italic and not bold lettering for inactive and script lettering for other, and STICK TO IT. Get those industrial shelves (either with or w/o doors) and stack the binders by category, then by active or inactive, and every time a subject goes from active to inactive or vice versa make sure you move the disk appopriately. Go through your inactive disks every 6 to 12 months. Ask yourself: 'When was the last time I referred to this information?' 'Can I get this info elsewhere?' 'Will I ever (realistically) refer to it again?' Tell him to be strict, honest, and willing to delete/get rid of some of that mountain. He may not believe it, but when it is finished, and he is standing back admiring the rows of binders on shelves, and there isn't a Mount Everest of papers, he'll feel SO much better. Good Luck. If he won't agree to the disks, buy a storage building, a good one that won't let in weather etc and store it out there. He may have a busy, important, impressive business and professional life, but what good is that if his personal life is empty, frustrating, and lacking??

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By (Guest Post)
August 31, 20050 found this helpful

Hello Lisa,

This is my tip> do go to flylady, , there you will find all the tips and the mental support you will need

and remember, do not nag, I am sure your fiance would love to have his files organized,but it is clear from your story, he hardly has the time to do this, and needs qualified support, because indeed this is not something to do lightly and certainly throwing away papers is not an option,

I know because I am lawyer and psychologist myself, and it is not an easy thing to keep organized.

you know managing an archive,for this is an archive, is really an art, and I would suggest
maybe you could contact a school that specializes in this matter, and find a good student there, to help you out, finding a system that suits all needs, yours and your fiance's.
and it would also surely help to have an interview with
an elderly librarian, just to find out what sound possibilities for data storage exist.

maybe some retired librarian could help you out as well as a student.

but remember, this is only to get yourself some sort of system, and of course this has to be talked over with your fiance, he has to approve, and I think he all ready has some sort of ( be it wobbly) system, that he alone 'knows" and he might very well be very reluctant to let anyone into this Walhalla of papers. And he is right!

point is that these are indeed valuable papers,and he alone knows the value of them,
yet he could benefit from a good storage system.

it must be a win win situation.

all the best!


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