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?