Case Name

Client/Matter Name vs Case Nickname vs Caption

In litigation support, we organize electronic discovery and our working files on the server by the specific client matter. A matter in the legal industry is the “new case” for which the attorneys have been hired by the client to provide legal services.

Every “new case” is assigned a new client/matter number by the accounting department. This is the reference number we use when billing our time.

A client/matter number typically looks something like this:  18036.0038. The first part of the number represents the client and the second part represents the matter. The numbers can be more digits and they can be separated by a dash or a period. This is just an example to give you an idea.

Some litigation support professionals will organize electronic discovery on the server using the client/matter number because it is a unique value and it won't be confused with other matters. In addition, all of the matters for the same client will sort together on a particular server.

However, what if you don't have all of your client matter numbers memorized or what if you have a long break from working on the matter and then you need to locate some data on the server? Maybe you remember the client number, but what was that specific matter number again? Yup, at this point, you will go look it up in your time entry software or maybe on that client/matter list you created for yourself and pinned to the bulletin board near your desk.

Some litigation support professionals prefer to use the client/matter name instead of the number so that it is more recognizable.  An example would look something like this: ABC Company_Investigation or ABC Company – Investigation, where the matter name is Investigation. They might create a subfolder for the matter name instead.

However, what if the name of the folder on the server does not accurately match the matter name in the accounting system? What if someone named it something slightly different? How would you verify which client/matter it is for if you are picking up on the matter much later in time or you just joined the firm?

That brings us to the “case nickname”. No matter what official matter name the billing partner gives to the accounting department when the new case is created, there is almost always another “nickname” that the attorneys begin to use to reference the “new case”. In conversations, you will hear the legal team refer to the case as something else that has no resemblance to the official matter name. The nickname can sometimes refer to the one party of many parties in the litigation that your firm represents.

In the pleading caption, it will list the Plaintiffs and the Defendants, but it may not reference all of them. The caption might list one or more names and/or it might use the term “et al.” to indicate there are more parties not listed. The attorneys in your firm may reference the matter by one of the high level parties or they may focus on the party they represent.

As far as organizing electronic discovery on the server, there is no right or wrong. It is a personal (or team) preference. I often use a combination of the client/matter number and name. For instance, I might name a folder 18036.0038_ABC Company_Investigation. This way I can identify it quickly by both the number and the name. I usually try to use the official matter name, but occasionally that doesn't make sense because no one in your firm will be using that term when they refer to the matter. I will sometimes ask the lead associate or partner how they are already referring to the matter by the time I get involved. That way I can be consistent in my world with how the legal team is referring to the matter.

How do you organize electronic discovery on your server? Do you have another naming convention that has worked for your team?


  1. Its common to use internal nicknames or project names ie like project black.

    This is particuarly important where there are confidentiality arrangements (information barriers/chinese walls) in place where the firm may represent opposing sides in a matter, and so every effort is made to quarantine the matters, as well as general obfuscation.

    You’ve also got the conundrum of happening across the matter years after it has been archived, and no-one works at the firm who worked on the original matter, and then trying to find the file when it was called a project name that no-one remembers.

    Another slight complication is the various repositories that you may have for the matter amongst the myriad of systems – ie the time recording / billing system; the document management system; assorted working files for litigation support; the legal/document review database; the raw client data on CD/DVD, USB, HDD etc etc

    You also then have the issue of maintaining a structure within the litigation support working files area that is: succinct; accurately reflects the chronological journey for the matter; and shows the various waypoints ie data from client; data from third party; massaged data imported into legal/document review system; exported data with burnt on redactions (I think in the US you may also refer to this as endorsements?); etc etc etc

    1. Right on, Matthew! You are showing your experience as a litigation support professional. Love it! Very good points and so true. People in our industry need to always be thinking big picture.

  2. On the front end, user facing, we use client matter name and number. Case team cannot choose how their matter folder/share are named. Our LitSupport system/application pulls the official name directly from the Accounting system so we can be sure everyone is all on the same page on how we reference the case. At the backend, naming convention is just by client/matter name – we can easily query names as everything is tied to the SQL server.

  3. This is a good topic.
    Naming conventions and retrieval across teams. At County Counsel we use
    PerfectLaw. It requires a client number and a matter number. But like Amy said
    who uses or can remember numbers? So you search by name but what if the
    nickname is Smith and the case name is Brown, Smith so you have to search under
    B and not S even though everyone calls it Smith and 10 years from now still
    call it Smith. PerfectLaw is good because it allows for “contains”
    searching and searching within and across multiple docs. But this issue drives
    me CRAZY when I can’t find something.

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