IRM Tip of the Day – Global Filters


iManage Records Manager (IRM) is records management software utilized by many law firm and professional services organizations. As a consultant with many years experience in designing, implementing and teaching IRM, I have found similar questions arise on how best to use it. I will periodically produce videos on IRM tips I think each user should know to get more out of their iManage Records Manager software.

In this video I will show you how to use IRM’s global filters feature to tell IRM to display only files from your office.

Please feel free to contact me if you need further clarification on what I presented in the video.

Nitza Medina-Garcia, Certified Records Manager, Records and Information Management Consultant

Contact us today! Let us help you get more out of your iManage Records Manager software. To be notified of new blog posts and news, sign up for our email newsletter.

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Are your law firm matter files a hot mess?

Does this sound familiar? You are on the phone with your client, and you tell them “Can you hold while I pull your file?” You ask your secretary to retrieve the file, and hear him reply “Sure, give me a minute to find it.” Several minutes pass with no answer. What sort of impression do you think the client has of your firm after waiting several minutes on the phone? Maybe that the lawyer he is paying handsomely is inefficient and disorganized? Is that the impression you want to leave with your clients?

In order to avoid this scenario in the future, you need to invest in your firm’s administration to develop a plan, the right tools and trained staff.

  1. The Plan: It would be wonderful if all the files a lawyer ever created fit neatly in his/her office. But in reality, the firm has to decide what to do with the matter files once the office has hit capacity. File them in a central file room? Send them off-site to a storage vender? And, don’t forget your electronic documents and emails. Should you move electronic documents from the file share to an Archive drive? A plan should be documented, communicated to staff and followed.
  2. The Right Tools: For paper files, you need to determine if those filing cabinets of varying sizes are the best way to store your matter files, or if an open shelf plan with color coding would be more efficient. Should you use barcodes to keep track of your files? Should you move to a paper light matter file system? Your plan should include a discussion of the tools to be used for file management.
  3. Trained Staff: Whether you are a solo practitioner or a big law firm, staff (or you solo practitioner) need to be trained to follow the plan, understand why the plan is important to the firm and why it is important for client service. If a paralegal or secretary is tasked with file management responsibilities, their lawyers should impress upon them the importance of good file management. Including these responsibilities as a part of their annual evaluation can increase participation. However, it may make more sense for some firms to hire records management staff to exclusively do these tasks as it may be less expensive than to have your paralegal or secretarial staff do them.

Nitza Medina-Garcia, Certified Records Manager, Records and Information Management Consultant

Contact us today! Let us help you create a plan to meet your firm’s needs. To be notified of new blog posts and news, sign up for our email newsletter.

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Are You Keeping your Business Information Past its Expiration Date?


Just like the milk in your refrigerator, information has a shelf life. Unfortunately business information does not come pre-stamped with an expiration date. It is up to each business to develop their own best dates, after which information becomes no longer needed. It is then up to the business to responsibly get rid of their business information, otherwise it may continue to take up more and more valuable space and resources costing time and money.

One of the first steps a business can take is to list the types of information held by the business. This listing is formally called a retention schedule. Then for each type of information an expiration date is determined. These dates are formally called retention periods.

How does a business determine these dates? There are typically three main considerations when calculating these expiration dates:

  1. Business Need: the information is still needed to run the business
  2. Law: a law requires the information should be retained for a certain number of years or once some event has occurred
  3. Audit: in the event of an audit, the business would be required to have this information.

The rationale for determining the retention period should be documented, including any legal citations. This will come in handy if a judge ever questions why your business destroyed certain information, or if you are trying to remember how you came up with a certain retention period.

A retention schedule should include in addition to the names of information types and their retention periods, a brief description of the information type. In the event of multiple copies of an item, an information owner should be designated to be responsible to retain the “official” copy.

Retention schedule example:

Name Description Information Owner Retention Period
Accounts Payable Records of amounts owed or paid to outsiders Accounting Dept Year End + 7 Years
Accounts Receivable Records of amounts owed by outsiders to the business Accounting Dept Year End + 7 Years
Chart of Accounts Listing of all accounts used in the General Ledger Accounting Dept Life of Business
Banking Records of bank accounts Accounting Dept Year End + 7 Years
General Ledger Complete record of the financial transactions of a business Accounting Dept Life of Business
Benefits Administration Records of the payment of benefits to employees Human Resources Dept Termination + 6 Years
Personnel Files Records of individual employees Human Resources Dept Termination + 6 Years

Remember, the retention schedule is meant to be a living document. As your business creates new information types, they should be added to your retention schedule. Periodically the rationale for retention periods should be reviewed, especially if new law indicate a change in retention periods.

Note: if your business anticipates it will be involved in litigation, the relevant business information must not be destroyed. The retention period for the relevant business information is suspended, formally called a legal hold. The information is put on legal hold until the litigation is complete or no longer anticipated. Once the legal hold expires, the original retention period for the information is restored.

Nitza Medina-Garcia, Certified Records Manager, Records and Information Management Consultant

Contact us today! Let us help you create a retention schedule to meet your business’s needs.

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Top 5 Email Tips to Tame Your Inbox


Is your email inbox overflowing and wish you could get it under control? Below I share my top 5 email tips and my system for managing my inbox.

  1. Send less email: If you send less emails, you will get less email replies. Makes sense, right? Instead of email, use the phone or walk over to your colleague’s desk or set up a short in person chat with your client.
  2. Acknowledge email receipt: Replies do not need to be a novel. A short response of “Got it”, “Thanks” or “Will do” will help the sender know that you did indeed receive the email and have read it. Otherwise, you may get a follow up email asking to confirm receipt.
  3. Manage email subscriptions: Newsletters, social media groups such as those on Linkedin, or article feeds can clog up your inbox. At least quarterly take time to reassess if you are deriving value from these subscriptions. Do you like the content, but are just receiving too many individual emails? Many subscriptions allow you to customize your settings to get a daily digest instead of individual emails. If you find you are not getting value from your subscriptions, you can unsubscribe from the email subscription all together. You can also set up email rules to directly route emails to an email folder for Newsletters for later reading.
  4. Schedule email tasks: Managing emails as soon as they come in will make you a slave to your inbox. Instead, schedule 1 or 2 times in your day to manage your inbox. You may also want to turn off the email notifications alerts on your computer as well to help eliminate distractions.
  5. Manage email using a simple system: Use a simple system to take control of your email according to your priorities. Here is mine:

Review/respond to emails

  1. 2 minute rule – I like the 2 minute rule from David Allen of Getting Things Done. If you can review or respond to the email in less than 2 minutes finish it now. Delay will mean it will take more time to deal with the email later.
  2. More than 2 minutes – schedule time for it in your calendar to do later. If you will not be able to respond to the email fully within a day, you can always respond to the sender with a short email letting them know you are working on the reply.

Sort/file email

  1. Create a simple filing system to process your emails. I suggest creating folders such as: Action, Waiting, Reference, and Records folders. Action and Waiting folders help manage tasks relating to emails, instead of cluttering the main Inbox. Reference type folders are for emails that retain their value for a limited time (newsletters, email subscriptions, sales, etc.). Records folders can be used to retain business records, if you do not have a document/records management system in place. You can create folders for each of your Clients, Projects or a Supervisor, etc. Ultimately over time these Records folders will grow in size and you will need to store these emails in a more suitable records system for their required retention, or risk the wrath of your IT system administrator.
  2. Use Rules to automate filing regular emails. For example, you can create a Newsletters folder and create a rule to automatically file all new newsletters into this folder. This removes clutter from your inbox and allows you to read these lower priority emails when it fits your schedule.

Clean up email

  1. Use AutoArchive to automatically clean up folders. Remember that Newsletters folder you created? Wouldn’t it be nice to automatically delete emails after a month? Outlook lets you do this with its AutoArchive feature. You can set individual folders to delete email when it reaches a certain age. This feature is great to use for managing short term unimportant emails.
  2. Schedule a quarterly review of your email folders for unimportant emails that can be discarded. It may be difficult to fit in email clean up at the end of a quarter, so you may want to schedule this task at the beginning of the following quarter. Set aside some time to clean up your inbox and folders to ensure your email system is humming along. This is also the time to think about implementing any adjustments to your system, always remembering to keep things simple.

Do you have any additional email tips to add? I’m always looking for better ways to manage email. Please leave me a comment below.

Nitza Medina-Garcia, Certified Records Manager, Records and Information Management Consultant

Contact us today! Let us help you create strategies to optimize your email processes.

InfoCompass Business Solutions

Is Malware in Mobile Apps Putting Your Business at Risk?


Many businesses utilize smart phones and tablets to conduct business on the go. However, many do not have a formal mobile device policy on what mobile apps can be downloaded on  company devices. This can leave businesses vulnerable to cybersecurity attacks from mobile devices.

ARMA’s Information Management Magazine recently published an article on “Unsecured Mobile Apps Are Putting Organizations at Risk” where they reported mobile malware infection has increased to over 16 million infected devices in 2014.

Why are mobile apps such a cybersecurity risk? ARMA also goes on to cite recent research by the Ponemon Institute on behalf of IBM that found the following six reasons:

  1. In the rush to release new apps, the apps are released with vulnerabilities hackers can exploit.
  2. Most apps are not tested or infrequently tested.
  3. Malware infections are increasing because of the lack of business resource to combat infections.
  4. Not enough money is allocated to securing mobile apps. Of the average $34 million used to develop an app only $2.2 million, or 5.5% is allocated to security.
  5. Most businesses do not have in-house mobile security expertise.
  6. Most businesses do not have polices that define what is acceptable use of mobile apps on business devices. This puts the business at risk for data breaches, ransom ware (thieves hold your business information hostage until a ransom is paid) and denial of service attacks and much more.

What can your business do to combat malware from mobile apps? Here are some next steps:

  1. Ask yourself, does your business have a policy on mobile device use? No? Then, now is a great time to formally document a policy regarding acceptable use of mobile devices including appropriate mobile apps to download.
  2. Do you want individuals to self-monitor, or will you have your IT department bless new mobile app downloads. Both strategies have their pluses and minuses. With self-monitoring you give individuals the freedom to choose which apps are most likely trustworthy apps, but you may have the risk that a less than technical person may download the one app that cripples your business. On the other hand if you have mobile apps only available from the IT department, you can create a bottleneck and inhibit business agility.
  3. Train employees on proper cyber security procedures regularly. Include mobile app choices in your cyber security training.
  4. Audit compliance with business policies regularly.

Nitza Medina-Garcia, Certified Records Manager, Records and Information Management Consultant

Contact us today ! Let us help you create strategies to protect your business information.

InfoCompass Business Solutions

What if your offices flooded today? Will you still be in business tomorrow?


Everyday here in California the news is warning viewers of a possible El Nino weather system dumping a lot of water on this drought-stricken state. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, is urging Californians to buy flood insurance before the stormy season starts in 30 days. Even if you have flood insurance, will your business be able to survive if it suddenly was flooded with water? If you only had a few minutes before disaster struck, would you know what items to grab before you head out the door?

One of the best ways to limit the damage to your business is to be prepared before disaster strikes. For businesses this often means knowing what business information and records are critical to operations in the event of an emergency.  This critical information is called Vital Records. Vital Records “contain information needed to establish or continue an organization in the event of a disaster. They are necessary to recreate the company’s legal and financial position and to preserve the rights of the company and its employees, customers, and stockholders” (definition from Robek’s Information and Records Management). If Vital Records were lost, a business might not be able to collect on the flood insurance, accounts receivable might not be collected, contracts might not be able to be enforced and intellectual property might be lost. All of these could lead to the death of your business.

So, what can your business do to be prepared in the event of a disaster? The following 4 steps can lead your business in the right direction.

Step 1: Identify and list the critical information and records of your business.  Common categories are insurance policies, accounts receivable, and contracts. Be sure to limit the information and records to be only that which is absolutely necessary for the continuation of the business (typically 3-5% of your records and information). In deciding whether a record is vital or not, you should weigh the time and cost of protecting the record versus reconstructing the record. A Vital Record program is another way of insuring your business will continue to function after a disaster.

Step 2: Determine the best way to protect each classification. There are 4 common protection methods:

  • Dispersal: during the regular course of business, records and information can be stored in at least two or more locations. For electronic information and records, this would include regular backup procedures where the backup is stored offsite. For paper records this would include distributing copies to multiple business offices along with the knowledge that the copies are to be retained for vital record purposes.
  • Duplication: the scheduled duplication of records after they have been created. Because this method often is costly and time consuming to do after the business information has been created, this should be limited to those records where it was impractical to make a duplication when they were created or received. Duplication is not limited to the format of the original. If the original was paper, a duplicate in electronic form would be ok.
  • On-Site Storage: some protection can be provided by storing records and information in specifically designated vital records areas of the business. The vital records area should be stored in fire-resistant containers, file cabinets, safes, vaults and file rooms built for such purposes. The area should be well marked and the business’s emergency plan should include precautions to prevent fire or flood from spreading to areas where such equipment is stored. In the case of flood, a good rule is to keep file storage 6 inches off of the floor. This can help avoid water damage for those smaller floods or water pipe breaks.
  • Off-Site Storage: if reference to the vital records and information is low, you may want to consider off-site storage. Off-site storage facilities (or electronic backup companies) typically provide vital record level protection to records stored there. As with your own business, you would need to ensure the off-site storage facility met the same or better security standards as your own business as a part of your review of their facility.

Step 3: Establish a vital records program. 

  • Decide who will be responsible for the program.
  • Document the purpose of the program.
  • Determine your business’s disaster risk (earthquake, flood, fire, tornado, etc.)
  • Create and document vital record procedures.

Step 4: Periodically review if records and information are still classified as vital. A contract that has expired or an accounts receivable invoice that has been paid typically are no longer considered vital records for the continuation of a business. So, keep this in mind when developing your vital records program. Records should be periodically reviewed to see if they should still retain their vital records extra protection.

Nitza Medina-Garcia, Certified Records Manager, Records and Information Management Consultant

Contact us today! Let us help you create a vital records inventory and program to give your business that extra protection flood insurance can’t buy.

InfoCompass Business Solutions

Top 10 Reasons Law Firms Should Go Paper-light


Reducing the amount of paper managed by your law firm will result in less time, money and space occupied by paper. It will also give your lawyers and staff more flexibility in accessing and securing firm information. The following is a list of the top 10 reasons to consider going paper-light.

  1. Reduce the cost of storing paper files. Less paper means less paper supplies: filing cabinets, paper, printer ink, file folders, labels, paper clips and box supplies. Less paper means less office space dedicated to storing or sorting paper. Less paper means less boxes sent to offsite storage companies. Less paper means less money spent on mailing paper copies of documents.
  2. Reduce the time used to prepare paper documents. Documents written on a computer can easily be printed to PDF. The PDF can be emailed as an attachment or uploaded to court websites that expect electronic filings.
  3. Increase efficient access to client matter files. Electronic documents stored in a central client matter file can be more quickly retrieved versus a paper document that could be stored in a records file room or at an offsite storage facility. A lawyer speaking on the phone with a client would much rather pull up the document in question quickly versus scheduling a follow up call.
  4. Reduce the amount of paper files brought with lawyers to trial. The entire client matter file can be brought easily on a computer or accessed remotely from a document management system while at court. Less boxes required to bring to trial and in some cases eliminates the need altogether.
  5. Increase security around the client matter files and administrative firm files. A document management system can secure electronic documents to ensure only those with approved access can see them. A document management system can especially help manage access for those firms who have ethical wall considerations.
  6. Increase the ability to audit electronic documents. Document management systems track documents through their lifecycle, collecting details about who created the document and when, who modified a document and when, who refiled the document and when, who emailed or printed a document and when and so on. This audit trail is much richer than what is available on a normal network file share. With an audit trail you can trace who deleted a document and when.
  7. Access electronic documents from anywhere with an internet connection. Document management systems can allow lawyers to access client matter files from home, remote office or on the road. This flexibility can allow lawyers to work in the best environment of their choosing. It can also be a selling point to attract the newer generation of lawyers who are very familiar with accessing information on the go.
  8. Increase efficiency by utilizing workflow software for repetitive firm processes. Paper documents allow for one person to work on them at a time. With electronic documents and workflow, many bottlenecks can be averted, because several people can view an electronic document at the same time. For example, if a contract needs to be reviewed by a paralegal, case manager and responsible attorney, the reviews can be done simultaneously, instead of waiting for each review to be completed before the next can start.
  9. Increase the office space used for personnel versus paper storage. Space previously used to store paper documents and their filing cabinets can be repurposed as office space for firm personnel.
  10. Dispose of electronic documents in a systematic manner utilizing less personnel. Many document management systems have electronic recordkeeping capabilities or add-ons to manage the life cycle of electronic client files. Instead of doing a quarterly shred day for paper client files that can be destroyed, a records manager can manage the process electronically in a fully audited fashion.

Note: Paper-light is meant to acknowledge that there will be certain documents and/or items that will still need to be managed in its original analog state (wills and trusts for example, or product samples for intellectual property law). Do not let some paper restrictions hold the firm back from implementing procedures that will save time, space and money.

Nitza Medina-Garcia, Certified Records Manager, Records and Information Management Consultant

Contact us today ! Let us help you create a real world plan  to become paper-light and reap the benefits.

InfoCompass Business Solutions