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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov. 20, 2010
    Location
    Upstate New York
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    4,263

    Default Serious organizing (business records)

    OK - so I'm starting up my own company doing insurance claims.

    I've had a couple of businesses before, moved numerous times, been through a nasty divorce. What do those have in common?
    Boxes of records!

    I've kept everything, and know that it's not the way to go to stay sane - but it has helped in both the divorce, and my old real estate business, to have kept records.

    I do have a good scanner that I haven't used in a while.

    I was trained in the old school that the original doc takes precedence over a copy in court. But from what I've heard, and experienced in recent years, apparently electronic records are ok in most cases? Anyone really know? Will a scanned copy be acceptable later on in most venues?

    1) I need to begin a file system for clients' files for my new business. That I can probably maintain as I'm just getting it off the ground. But still - any suggestions for maintenance, what to do when cases are closed, but you need to maintain files?

    2) I dragged a dozen boxes of records from storage and hope to purge and scan. Suggestions for organizing old records on computer/CDs? Other? Where to keep?

    3) Finally, I have all kinds of old bank statements, cancelled checks, receipts. What to keep? What to toss? How to organize/scan different papers, pages from bound books, etc.

    I'd use a professional, but am in the middle of nowhere. When I had a real estate business, I actually hired 2 "professional organizers" from 2 different areas, and neither was really useful or legit. Am glad to do it myself, just shudder if I look at it all at once!

    Thanks!!
    Being right half the time beats being half-right all the time. Malcolm Forbes



  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul. 4, 2000
    Location
    Maryland
    Posts
    1,821

    Default

    Being a bit of a data-nerd, with some hyper-organized tendencies, I would approach your situation this way:

    1-leave the old records as paper for the time being; focus on the new business stuff and set it up to be all digital from the beginning. You will learn some lessons as you set up the new business system and can use those to decide which of the old records you want to scan at some future date.

    2-for you new system, you need to design it before you open your doors and have a template worked out for how you want to name files and sub-files. You can change this as you get experience, but you need to have the basic file structure worked out first.

    3-you need to be ABSOLUTELY, 100% committed to following whatever file structure / design you establish -- no cheating, no saying "I'll fix that later". Do every file, every document the right way / established way from the very start.

    4-I like descriptive names for file names -- client lastname-clientfirstname-document type-date sorts of things. I also like names that can be sorted into something sensible / useable. I like folders and sub-folders for things, so in a very large file system I designed for someone (where there were multiple agencies, each with multiple individuals), there was an Agency folder that contained a separate folder for each client. Those client folders would sometimes have sub-folders for particular issues that generated many documents. This system worked well when someone needed "all the files on Agency X" ... it was easy to transfer or link to a master folder to share the information.

    5-closed files can be moved to a separate "Closed files" folder if that suits your workflow. Or if there will be closed files that relate to ongoing clients, then make a "closed files" folder under that client name.

    6-get thee a really good automated back-up and off-site file storage system. I currently use CrashPlan plus DropBox. There are lots of options out there. Set the back-up software to run at least once a day, more frequently if you are moving around a lot of data each day.

    7-Depending on the complexity of your workflow, you can set-up a supporting database that captures some of the higher level information on each client and includes fields for future things / a tickler file. Again, set this up before hand and be 100% committed to maintaining it each day. Such a data base will allow you to answer questions like: when was the last time I did X for client Y? or when is client Y due for action Z?

    Once you have the new business / data system up and running, you will begin to see what kinds of records you use frequently / really need to keep for the future. Use that knowledge to help you sort through the old records. Scan, label, and save them using a similar file system.

    *star*
    "Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit."
    - Desiderata, (c) Max Ehrman, 1926



  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar. 16, 2000
    Location
    Chatham, NY USA
    Posts
    4,100

    Default

    Curious, CVPeg - where in the middle of nowhere upstate NY are you? I've lived in a few places that could answer that description!

    You've been around the block, so I'm sure you don't need to add "And what state sales tax and the IRS require" to your thoughts and ShotenStar's excellent suggestions!

    Good luck.

    C
    www.ayliprod.com
    Equine Photography in the Northeast



  4. #4
    CVPeg is offline Grand Prix Premium Member
    Original Poster
    Join Date
    Nov. 20, 2010
    Location
    Upstate New York
    Posts
    4,263

    Default

    Wow, Shotenstar - thank you, thank you!
    Frankly, my work product will include documentation that I'll have to keep copies of...

    Or so I felt as I wrote it, because it will involve getting information needed for possibly legal/evidential reasons, down the road.

    BUT, as I think about it, the originals will go to the clients, so, hmmm - I really might be able to do this digitally 100%.... Hmmmm. Hmmmm. I know I will have to have real life working files while I am active on the assignment, and have a good idea how I'll set those up to use. But, hmmm - dare I? Scary, but this could work I think!

    This is great - you've given me a lot!!


    ccoronios - Otsego County - and will be working from the MA border/Albany/Saratoga to Syracuse. The organizers I hired were from Syracuse and southern Delaware County. Of course I had to pay for their travel time, and then when they got here, they were useless.

    Columbia County used to be part of my territory several years ago, and will offer that as well now. Lovely area.

    And, yes, thanks for the nudge! I know what I'll keep for the IRS, but on today's list I have to investigate what, if any, of my work is taxed. It hadn't been in the past, but may have changed. Need to make a couple of calls to be sure...!
    Being right half the time beats being half-right all the time. Malcolm Forbes



  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar. 16, 2000
    Location
    Chatham, NY USA
    Posts
    4,100

    Default

    Ah-and do you show at Farmers' Museum Show? If so, please stop and say 'hi' - I'm the one in the green shirt in the middle of the ring - wearing a camera with a big white lens! :-)

    Carol
    www.ayliprod.com
    Equine Photography in the Northeast



  6. #6
    CVPeg is offline Grand Prix Premium Member
    Original Poster
    Join Date
    Nov. 20, 2010
    Location
    Upstate New York
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    Default

    No, but I was there last year - sitting on a small knoll, trying to catch a sliver of shade, with my other 4-legged critter, my Irish Wolfhound. If I'm around this year, I'll definitely introduce myself.
    Being right half the time beats being half-right all the time. Malcolm Forbes



  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov. 17, 2006
    Posts
    3,798

    Default

    My husband is an attorney, and he has a paperless office. He scans EVERYTHING. Federal court does things all digitally, so that's not a problem. It takes some getting used to, but it's very doable. I'm a court reporter, and I do as much as possible digitally, as well. No need to keep so many paper copies of things.

    Good luck!
    “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
    ¯ Oscar Wilde



  8. #8
    CVPeg is offline Grand Prix Premium Member
    Original Poster
    Join Date
    Nov. 20, 2010
    Location
    Upstate New York
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    Default

    Thanks, PF.

    Yes, my last paralegal position was in a Federal area, so I'm familiar with their filing and requirements. But I'll be generating parties'/witnesses' statements, taking photos (well, we know that is ok digitally), and gathering reports. But some insurance people I know still like to see the real life doc.

    I'm mostly worried about NYState civil court requirements, and originals vs copies, but am guessing if I pass off the originals, and keep a digital copy, I'll be all set!

    Your profession is another one I considered years ago. But one of the attorneys I worked for nudged me away from it. Still think that may have been interesting.
    Being right half the time beats being half-right all the time. Malcolm Forbes



  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov. 17, 2006
    Posts
    3,798

    Default

    Yeah, I think you'll be set. Hubby hates paper and hates when people send him paper.

    I like court reporting. I tend to enjoy being the fly on the wall. I won't lie, learning the skill was not easy. Took a bit longer than hubby's law school! haha. But it's nice to work for myself. I don't work for a firm. I can look out my window when I'm not doing depos or in court, and see my "ponies". I usually use the weather as my guide to working hours when I'm doing transcripts. If it's nice, I'm out riding! I can work later in the day.

    Good luck!
    “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
    ¯ Oscar Wilde


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