I have many pet peeves working in the litigation support field, and this is one of them. When working with vendors, we are frequently sending data back and forth via FTP (File Transfer Protocol). When a vendor initially creates a new account for my firm, there are some steps that need to be taken before transferring any data.
Upon logging in to the vendor's FTP server for the first time, one scenario might have a directory structure that looks like the screenshot below. This can be confusing at first. Typically, we can guess that we should use the “incoming” and the “outgoing” folders. However, since data goes back and forth between the firm and the vendor, they would both have a need to use the “incoming” and “outgoing” folders.
Another scenario can be that after logging in to the vendor's FTP server, there are no directories whatsoever. It is empty. This is at least better than the scenario above, but still not ideal. All of the data going back and forth should not be combined together in one area.
The best scenario is usually one that I have to create myself. I have only worked with a few vendors that did this from the start. Upon logging in to the vendor's FTP site, there should be a clear direction as to where data should reside depending upon whether the firm is sending data to the vendor or the vendor is making data available for the firm to download. Since similar data is going both directions, I believe that it is a best practice to create a directory structure that reflects that.
The first thing I do is create two folders. I choose to use our firm name although it would work just as well if we use the vendor's name.
The next step is to create a client/matter folder underneath each of the folders above. I like to include the client/matter number and the client/matter name. This is another way for everyone to keep the data straight between matters and it gives everyone an easy reference to the client/matter number. Every time we work with a new client/matter, new folders are created in both locations.
I am very particular about directory structures as part of my overall obsession with efficient workflow processes. In the litigation support world, we are constantly sharing the work with other team members including our vendors. The more structure there is, the less likely things will fall through the cracks or cause confusion. Consistency is also key.
NOTE: Always use compressed files (*.zip or *.rar) when transferring data via FTP.