Tools of the Trade

Top Ten Practice Tips for Paralegals: Document Collection & Management
guest author: Lori A. Snead

  1. If the client asserts it, document it: Having too little information is a no-no in the legal world. Commit as much time as needed to gathering information from the client. I document all of my findings in an organized manner so the information is readily available. Your hard work will pay off, especially when it matters most.
  1. Research smarter, not harder: Each case has an element, feature, or factor that is liable to vary or change. With that said, I stay away from "cookie cutter" research practices. Without reinventing the wheel, style your research around the (8) components of the case. (Facts; Evidence; Events; Parties; Strong Points; Weak Points; Questions of Law; and, "What more is needed to prove the case?") Research time well spent makes for impressive results.
  1. Begin with an end it mind when creating your task list: Whether you tailor your agenda on paper or fancy a digital format; whether you outline your strategies at the start, or detail your strategies as the case progresses, you can’t go wrong maintaining a well thought-out written plan.
  1. It goes without saying, but the client is what it is all about: The best way to show your appreciation of a client is through doing good work. Have a good document retention plan and maintain a superior level of client service. Return phone calls, respond to emails, check in, and treat all client matters with the seriousness they deserve. Alternatively, the best way to spoil that relationship is through lack of communication and poor document retention.
  1. File setups that work in every practice area: "Consistency" is the key to executing this plan. I create a main client folder for each of my clients then within the main folder, create subfolders. I use the subfolders to organize and store all the digital documents related to the case. My paper file, I use an assortment of colored pocket-folders to mirror the digital subfolders and house paperwork and printouts.
  1. Organizing and tracking documents from clients: Start by making an early suggestion to clients about gathering documents and keeping them in one place until the time comes to collect the document from them. As the documents come into the office, maintain a spreadsheet itemizing each document provided by the client. Whether you immediately return originals documents to the client or retain originals until the close of the case, keep the client informed on the whereabouts their original documents.
  1. Collecting and managing opposing party documents:  With hesitancy in your grasp, you take delivery of the produced documents. Best case scenario, the documents are well organized and easily identifiable. Otherwise, start the task of organizing what you receive and record it all. I separate bulk documents and rename each documents in relation to the production request and the document title. Uniformly naming documents in relation to the production request and the document title will help you quickly locate a document.
  1. Conducting ongoing analysis to keep your systems effective: Any system, method, or protocol works best if everyone across the board adheres to the method. Reviewing current procedures on a regular bases and only making adjustments when necessary will keep your system in check. Too many changes create confusion and constant changes will surely create a process that will not be followed consistently by everyone.
  1. Computer-graphics technology can provide an effective means of conveying complex evidence: Foremost, computer-generated displays; more specifically, scientific animations or models must meet certain criteria before being admitted as evidence in court due to potential bias and unfairness. Keeping this in mind, it has been found visual memory is highly detailed, in contrast with memory for verbal materials. Audiences usually prefer audio-visual forms of communication, rather than relying solely on a verbal dialog. Scientific animations and virtual reconstructions have the potential to improve the comprehension and retention of data and evidence.
  1. As technology evolves so must you: Your role as a Paralegal is a vital part of the legal team. The world of technology is ever evolving. As a paralegal, and a legal professional, you should keep current on the newest technologies as it effects the practice of law.


Lori A. Snead is a senior litigation paralegal and team leader with law firm, Brown & Crouppen, P.C. Her area of specialization includes plaintiff litigation/person injury, including motor vehicle collisions, wrongful death, food poisoning, premises, slip and falls, animal attacks and asbestos exposure. Ms. Snead handles all aspects of a case from the initial client interview to trial preparation and participation. As a litigation team leader, she provides guidance and support to a staff of litigation paralegal and legal assistants involved in prosecuting lawsuits. Ms. Snead eared her associate’s degree in paralegal legal studies from Southwestern Illinois College in 1999.

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