In this article we look at work flow: loading a case’s documents into MasterFile and keeping it up to date as you create work product or receive more evidence. You’ll find the concepts useful for both litigation and transactional case files.
Here’s what we’ll cover
- Basic strategies – an overview
- What to load
- Keeping MasterFile up to date with work product and new documents
- Retaining paper copies of scanned documents
- Further information
If you’re new to MasterFile, we suggest you have a quick look at our short ‘MasterFile Quick Start Concepts and Tutorial’ videos to become familiar with basic concepts.
In ‘Getting started right with MasterFile’, we set out a simple six step process to help you understand how to start using MasterFile’s fact management system in litigation. We suggest you read that first if you’re using MasterFile for litigation support.
Basic strategies – an overview
There are two approaches for loading documents into MasterFile:
- Loading your documents without required information so they’re immediately available for searching and analysis. In this case, we suggest you:
- Use Express Load’s Batch Load Mode to rapidly load documents. Omitted or missing required information (document date, type and author, etc. in the red section of document profiles) is flagged for easy identification.
- Use the Evidence Cruncher to OCR any non-searchable image files and standardize them to PDF format, so scanned documents can be searched.
- Use MasterFile’s Global Replace, Global Add/Remove and Power Assist Revision maintenance utilities to quickly revise and complete any missing meta-data from document profiles.
- Loading your documents with profile information.
- For small batches of documents, you can do this quickly and easily with Express Load’s Power Assist Mode.
For large batches of documents use Express Load’s CSV File Load Mode. A CSV load file tells MasterFile how to profile documents while loading and can be easily created in Excel. If you use a service bureau, they can generate the CSV load file for you and load your documents directly into a new MasterFile database or provide the CSV file to you to load the documents you receive from the bureau yourself into either a new or an existing MasterFile database.
The remainder of this article covers other issues to consider, however the basic steps outlined above will let you get started with MasterFile immediately. Apply the suggestions below as needed.
What to load
Once you have picked your client/case/research file and decided what profiling steps to take (as explained above), the next step is to decide what documents to actually load. Depending on your resources, you can either:
- Scan, OCR and load all existing documents and evidence.
- Scan, OCR and load just your key documents and evidence. These are documents that will be referred to often or those whose content needs to be searched such as contracts, affidavits, or depositions that are not available in electronic form.
- Create only key document profiles without actually loading any document files. In this case, MasterFile becomes a categorized catalogue of your document/evidence inventory.
Express Load’s “Profile data only” option was specifically designed to help you create such “document-less” profiles quickly and rapidly. You will need to create a CSV file as above and as shown in our Express Load video.
A document profile without an attached image or document becomes a ‘stub’. You can still link ‘extracts’ to it that contain key paragraphs or information you’ve pasted, typed directly or scanned with pen scanner. That document and/or its extracts can then be referenced in facts, linked to your notes or argument, etc. This lets you easily organize and explore evidence, facts, people, and issues to develop your case analysis, strategy and argument. Key documents and evidence can be simply dragged and dropped into the profiles later as you need.
We still recommend that critical documents in electronic form, such as deposition transcripts, should be loaded into MasterFile at the outset.
Creating profiles, with or without attached document or image files, can be done rapidly using Express Load. However, if you are loading document or image files, here are some issues we suggest you consider:
- First, load documents, such as depositions, electronic transcripts, contracts, affidavits and authorities, which contain key evidence that substantiate the facts and your position, so they are immediately available to your team.
The remainder of the client/case file and other documents can be loaded in parallel or as resources permit. (Note: you will need to create keyword values for the “Locations of originals” field before profiling can begin).
- The volume of documents and how soon you require the MasterFile database to be completely loaded will determine how many workstations you need for scanning, profiling and OCR processing the existing documents.
If your case file is large, the MasterFile database should reside on a Notes/Domino server; several users can then access the database simultaneously and be assigned to profiling. Or, depending on scanner throughput, you may find you need to dedicate one person to scanning and PDF/OCR conversion using MasterFile’s Evidence Cruncher and another to profiling and saving the images with Express Load. If your file is exceptionally large or has a lot of documents to OCR, you may wish to have 2 or more scanners in operation and additional workstations dedicated to OCR. MasterFile can handle as many users as you wish to throw at your project. Alternatively you may also want to consider out-sourcing the initial loading process to a service bureau if it’s beyond your capacity to handle efficiently and quickly in-house.
While documents are being scanned, existing paper files will be in circulation and therefore incomplete. Furthermore, documents may get removed, shuffled and replaced. These situations will need to be managed so that documents don’t get scanned more than once or missed completely. We suggest that documents be scanned in chronological order and until scanning is complete, scanned documents be marked (perhaps on the reverse side) and placed in a second file. This enables correct refilling.
- Scanning standards (resolution, scanner settings, and so forth) and simple naming conventions for scanned files, such as prefixing the file name with the document date for Express Load should be set out. Similarly profiling standards should also be set to specify which profile fields need to be filled manually and which will be automatically filled with defaults by Express Load. Refer to “Express Load” in the MasterFile user manual for tips on the efficient use of Express Load.
- After all documents are loaded, consider using near-duplicate processing to flag identical documents as well as cluster near-duplicates and e-mail threads and thereby reduce the amount of documents to review. Even in collections as small as 1,000 documents, if just 20% of the documents are flagged and eliminated as near-duplicates, hours of review and reading time will be saved.
Once preliminary profiling with Express Load is complete, MasterFile is ready to support your work. You will be able to locate and display any document from the client/case file instantly, while post-profiling procedures, such as entering less important profile information, may be ongoing or completed for documents where it’s deemed necessary.
Once documents have been scanned, crunched and initially loaded, then depending on how familiar the staff assigned to profiling are with the documents, some or all of the documents may need to be reviewed by senior team members, perhaps to edit summary fields, or link appropriate issues, players or topics, and so forth.
After scanned image files have been profiled in MasterFile, we recommend that original word processing files for completed work product documents you have scanned and loaded, be saved together with their images in the corresponding profiles. This not only clears up hundreds or thousands of files from hard disk folders, placing them all in the secure MasterFile database, but more importantly, MasterFile’s cataloguing and organizational features will let you find any of these files again in less time and with less effort. Generally, most users let this task proceed over time as it is not a prerequisite to start using MasterFile.
Keeping MasterFile up to date with work product and new documents
Once a MasterFile database has been created, you should establish procedures to keep it up to date with new documents as they are received or created.
MasterFile’s Watch Folder Monitor was specifically designed for this purpose. Simply drag and drop or save new documents to the watch folder, and the monitor automatically brings the document into MasterFile.
- New work product documents should be created and stored in MasterFile, taking advantage of MasterFile’s document management facilities, rather than in directories on your computers or servers. By creating new documents directly in MasterFile you’ll get the benefit of all of MasterFile’s features, such as profiling, security, support for mobile users, collaboration with team members, and so forth. Signed copies, filed (and stamped) official copies, or pleadings, should be scanned and attached to the same profiles containing the original word processing files.
- All team members should regularly load e-mails sent or received to ensure case databases have all relevant communications and thereby avoid mistakes and misunderstandings.
- For paper documents your organization receives, simply set your scanner to save the scanned files to the watch folder.
Scanning requires some internal procedures to ensure that all documents related to the case file are scanned, crunched, loaded and profiled in MasterFile, ideally before the documents are physically put away so they are not forgotten, but more importantly to make them immediately available to everyone working on the file. Doc-links to these new documents can then be e-mailed to relevant team members for review directly in MasterFile. The physical documents should then be marked once scanned to avoid re-scanning by mistake.
Retaining paper copies of scanned documents
Depending on your client/case file, you need to establish whether you need to retain paper copies of scanned documents, particularly of signed agreements, correspondence, etc. Research projects that primarily consist of reference material readily available again from journals and so forth typically need no paper copies.
MasterFile makes a collaborative case analysis and evidence management platform for lawyers and litigators. Everything that matters is right at your fingertips in an intelligent system built for simple document management or complex litigation that transforms your practice.
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