A proper filing process saves the average team $144,000 per year (that’s 1 FTE!)

By Gavin Davis – Legal Operations Director

Years ago I was in one of those never-ending self-improvement workshops when the presenter said “If you only take one thing away from today, it should be this …”

Don’t file your emails. Action them then delete them.

The idea will discombobulate some minds, but it’s worth considering. We’re not suggesting deleting 100% of your emails, just 90%.

Over the last two years, we’ve calculated that the average 3 person in-house legal team can save $144,000 per year by adopting a rules based approach, “What we file and where we file it.” Only 3 teams from 100+ have in place simple, thoughtful one-page rules in place, which are followed by all. This is the equivalent of 1 additional mid-level FTE in your team or 2 juniors. Also, think about it from the CEO’s perspective, “How many extra salespeople could we hire with this?” 

More so than other functions, an in-house lawyer’s primary job is to process information – collect it, process it, apply the law and produce more information so the organisation can do what it needs to do. You’d think that in-house lawyers would be excellent at knowing what to file and where to file it, right?

Wrong! Many in-house lawyers save info into email subfolders or system drives or, worse still, desktops just in case, “I might need it again one day.” Corporate email systems don’t “delete delete” – something can always be located again unless the machine has been steam-rolled or you’re an IT genius, which most lawyers aren’t.

The chances are that at least 90% of your emails should just be deleted. Not filed anywhere, let alone email subfolders or a document management system outside of Outlook. Time is so valuable yet so much time is wasted every day by lawyers filing documents or emails just in case someone, one day, will need to find it in a folder on Outlook or in a DMS. We don’t work in a law firm anymore. We don’t need to file it in case we get sued!

In Legal Operations projects, we look at what people do, why they do it and how they do it. This shows that often 1 hr/day per person is wasted by inconsistent/non-existent policies and procedures on, “What we file and where we file it”.

High performing teams do the basics exceptionally well – they don’t need fancy software to fix the basics. One of the basics of any in-house team is getting 10/10 for information management and processing. Each high performing in-house team that we work with has protocols in place (that are followed by all) on “What we file and where we file it”. This caters for the 10% of info that should be stored in a place where it can be easily found again. The other 90% should be deleted and can be found by common powerful search software far better and faster than a person poking around digital folders. TIP: use Delve if you have Office 365.

This then ties into knowledge management, so you don’t reinvent the wheel – ie, draft a document or advice that’s been done before or worse, buy it again from an external law firm.

Lastly, with the rules (ie, “this is how we do things here”) deciding whether to delete or save takes way less time and brain power. They say Barack Obama only ever wore a grey suit one day and a blue suit the next. His idea was that a human brain only has so much room for decision making and given his day job he didn’t want to overthink the unimportant stuff.

What’s the downside? You may be viewed as lazy, a dangerous reactionary or perhaps as an extreme Marie Kondo follower. But, all will be ok … life goes on despite you deleting, not filing an email.  

Get in touch with me if you want more info on lexvoco’s best practice, one-pager template “What we file and where we file it”.

But, in summary, please delete this article.