Piles and Piles of Files

As my responsibilities at Jezic & Moyse grow, so do the number of files on my desk. At the time of this writing, I believe I have six case folders stacked on my desk. Some are folders that have just been created for a new client, and so they lay flat on the desk, with probably ten to thirty pieces of paper inside. But others are cases that have been handed back and forth between attorneys, spent a significant period of time in the criminal defense part of the office, and are now filled with different pleas, bond motions, court dates, and piles and piles of documents that try to paint a picture of a clients’ last decade in the United States.

The entire office is covered in files. There are shelves filled with files that strain the folders they contain, so it is hard to read the numbers that delineate the case inside. There’s an entire walk-in-closet-sized room filled with files on every part of the wall from floor to ceiling, and then boxes over-flowing with more files that sit strewn about on the ground, so it is impossible to even enter the room. And my favorite example is one of the attorneys’ offices, in which files just get piled up higher and higher on the edge of her desk. Every time she needs to get one out, it’s like she’s playing a giant and dangerous game of Jenga (her metaphor).

While all the files are digitized in a pretty organized system, the paper files play an important part in the job that gets done at the office. That’s because, for all of our innovation and technology, the government and courthouses still require all of the relevant documents to be submitted via snail-mail and on paper. This includes everything from three-page forms to 400+ page packets that back-up a client’s argument that they shouldn’t get deported. The files around the office contain birth certificates, passports, and social security cards. The importance of keeping track of these files cannot be understated.

And yet, with the exception of the numbers on the side of each file, there is very little organizational system to keep track of them. One day my boss asked me to pull a file off of the shelf and add to it some forms I had just gone over with a client. I scoured all the shelves, but I couldn’t find the file anywhere—in its correct chronological position or otherwise. This was because it was in my boss’s office all along.

The lack of a concrete organizational system is not the only baffling thing about how the office structures the problem of dealing with hundreds of clients at once. It seems like everyone who works there has a gifted memory for remembering names. I’ve only had about five or six cases on my plate at most at any given time, and yet I cannot recall whether I completed a G28, an E42B, or an I-765 for Ms. So-and-so or Mr. What’s-his-name. But it seems like the attorneys have an encyclopedic brain for remembering the details of each case, just from hearing the name of the client. Somehow, all of their mental files are kept well-organized in their head, and they can start up a conversation about a client’s case without so much as glancing at their file (and thank goodness, because who knows how long it would take to find the file).

While the method that’s being used right now seems to work for them, I have found it hard and sometimes frustrating to deal with chasing down files across the entire office, and I have been thrown and caught off-balance when an attorney starts giving me an assignment on a case whose particulars I can’t seem to remember. Hopefully my capability to memorize case details with grow with time (until then, I will have to rely on my notes and personal computer organizational system). It seems like until a file gets lost, or a mental deadline gets missed, Jezic & Moyse attorneys are committed to the inefficient filing system they’ve got, rather than spend time to reorganize the whole office.

One thought on “Piles and Piles of Files

  • July 11, 2019 at 10:20 am
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    Wow, very challenging. I am not really surprised that the court system – despite all of today’s technology – still relies on paper. I guess it still seems safer to have paper copies of critical documents (social security numbers, passports, etc.) versus electronic copies that could be more easily hacked. I don’t know. Not that you would want to necessarily subject yourself to this, but could devising a system for more effectively filing the records be something you’d want to create and propose? As for the encyclopedic nature of the attorney’s minds, I do think that comes with more time. I can often recall details about a particular student once they’ve become an alum and it seems to blow my colleagues mind. But the longer you work with whatever population you work with and given the level of detail with which you engage with ‘clients’ – the capacity for recall does seem to grow. Given that you are getting dropped into some of these cases, some of which the attorney’s have worked on for quite a while, I think it would be harder to automatically remember elements.

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