How to Organize your Documents without Document Management Software

June 4, 2022

You should be using a legal Document Management Software (DMS) like NetDocuments for a variety of reasons.  Just download our White Paper on Why you Need Document Management Software to find out why.  However, maybe you are just hanging out your shingle and don’t have the spare cash to buy a DMS.

This post will explain how to manage your digital documents without the benefit of a DMS.  There are two advantages of this setup:

1. This is the best way to get organized without buying a DMS

2.  This setup will make it easy to migrate into a DMS

Document Mgt Image-small-1890

Client Folder Structure:

We are going to discuss how to manage your clientcustomer documents because this should be 95% of your data.  Your admin, forms and other folders should be more simple to organize.


Client:  Client ID – Client Name.   The Client ID should come from your time/billing/accounting system.



Matter: Matter ID –  Matter Description.  Again, the Matter ID should come from your time/billing/accounting system.


Document Types

Once we open the Matter Folder,  we would see a list of Document Types:

Create a list of Document Types and assign them to numerical order.  This way each folder is basically the same and a user that has not worked in the case should be able to find the information they are looking for.

01. Pleadings

02. Correspondence

03. Notes

04. Discovery

05. Memos

TIP –>  Create a Master Client Folder, labeled something like 0000-Master Client.  In this folder have the canned list of document types.  That way you can just copy the folder when you create a new clientmatter.

Document Naming Convention:

Have the date first, then a  space and the Document Name.  The Date should be Year-Month-Day.  For year,  you want to use 2014 and not 14.

Example: 2014-02-27  Motion for Summary Judgment

If we looked into the 01 Pleadings Folder we would see:


If we looked into the 02 Correspondence Folder we would see:


Since you are not using a DMS, you need to put the date first so you can easily sort the documents.

This is the best way to organize your documents if you don’t have Document Management Software.  This will allow anyone at your company to open a folder and understand where everything is.  Do not let users create their own folders,  have a uniform system in place that avoids chaos.