Keeping your case organized can and often does make or break your case. I have found this to work really well especially in court. With this system, if I need a specific document I can go right to it without having to dig through a pile.
Items you will need:
- 1 or 2 – 5”, 3 ring binders (you can go to your local used office supply store and get these big binders for a couple of dollars each.
- Clear document sleeves. You can get these sleeves in packages of 25 at any office supply store. They are open at the top, and will have one side reinforced with 3 holes that fit perfectly in your 3 ring binder.
- Sticky tabs – These come in all different shapes, sizes, and colors. Pick some that you are comfortable with and stick with that kind. I like to get small tabs that are all one color. I will get 2-3 different colors. One color indicates documents sent to me; another color will indicate my pleadings; and another color will indicate exhibits to my pleadings.
- A black sharpie for marking your tabs.
- A good pen with water proof ink.
- Manila folders – you will be cutting these folders in half for section separators and marking the tab appropriately. I will explain below.
- A hole punch
- Paper Clips
- A printer
To get started organizing your case get all (yes “all”) of your documents together in chronological order as to when they were sent, received, or filed.
With a sharp pair of scissors, cut the manila folders along the fold so that the top tab is visible from the side just past the edge of the document sleeves in your binder. These will indicate the cause number and venue which that set of documents pertains to. With your sharpie mark the tab with the venue and cause number i.e. “Justice Court No. J1-CV-13-123456”; “District Court D5-CV-13-123456”; “Federal Court No. 92-12345” and so on.
You will need a table of contents page. Pull up your word processor on your computer; Open a document and move all the margins (top bottom and both sides) out close to the edge of the document click center, bold, and underline then title that page just as you did the tab on the section separator (manila folder above). Click enter, then click “Insert Tables”; Choose 4 columns and fill the page with rows; in the top row title each column Date, Party, Document Title, and No.; Arrange the columns to allow yourself room to write. Note the 3rd column titled Document Title should be as wide as you can get it because sometimes a document has a long title i.e. Defendant’s Motion to Compel Production of Discovery Request. When you are finished click print. Save this document so that you can use again as a template, changing what ever information you need.
Start with document number one i.e. 3 day Notice to Vacate. With your pen in the date column write in the date on the document, not the date you received it; Under Party write Plaintiff; Under Document Title write 3 Day Notice to Vacate, and in the No. column write 1.
Put the 3 day notice to vacate in a sleeve and mark a colored sticky tab 1 with your sharpie.
Repeat this until you run out of documents. It’s always best to offset your tabs (one just above the other) so that they can all be seen. All documents get numbered tabs and all pleading exhibits get alphabetized with a different colored tab.
When you are finished with that section put your table of contents page in its own sleeve between the section separator and document No. 1 and move on to the next section and do the same thing there.
Note: Keep envelopes that documents come in. Sometimes a post date is important. Keep each envelope with its respective document using a paperclip. Likewise with a PS Form 8311 (postal ‘green cards’). When the court asks, ‘do you have verification that the Plaintiff received your document’ you can say ‘yes your Honor I do’ and you can go right to what ever you need.
Good luck and I hope this method of record keeping works as well for you as it has for me.