The Three Things, in Your Firm, You Never Want to Hear (In Succession): I Need the John

The Three Things, in Your Firm, You Never Want to Hear (In Succession): I Need the John

Contrary to common belief, in the greater Washington D.C. metropolitan area there is no surer or quicker path to DEFCON Level 1 than the following conversation:

Attorney: [To Assistant] “I need the John Smith file.”

Assistant: [After inspecting all the ‘usual’ places like the requesting Attorney’s car, floor, briefcase, and desk (under the now cold, half-full Venti No Whip Triple Shot Cafe Mocha) – but certainly not the central file room – everyone knows there is absolutely no way it could be there] “Now, where could that John Smith file be?”

Assistant: [To Assistant #2] “Please inform the Attorney we, ahem, you can’t find the John Smith file.”

Been there? Done that? If so, welcome to the ALFC, or ‘Ahem, Lost File Club’! But in spite of all the fanfare, what’s the big deal. I mean, it’s just one file. How important can it be? Well, unfortunately, pretty darn. One lost, or misplaced, or can’t-find-for-three-days file can be the difference between a happy client and a lost one; the difference between a happy attorney and a not-so-happy attorney; or the difference between your current job and your soon-to-be next one.

For decades now, the seemingly eternal struggle to “find the file” has been vigorously addressed, first with little color stickies, then with barcodes, and then with both. And truthfully, this has had some success. However, even for the firms experiencing victory in this area, it comes at a price – namely the time spent maintaining such a system. But there is another way. Technology does progress. Enter passive Radio-Frequency Identification, or RFID.

Long-used in retail and other industries, passive RFID is only recently being leveraged to its full capacity in the legal sector. With the industry adoption of Gen II technology, competition and quality has increased, and prices have come down – way down. RFID tags themselves, often the most cost-prohibitive element of a proposed system, have gone from more than one dollar per tag just a few years ago down to less than 25 cents per tag today. This, in combination with the increased read ranges of the RFID scanners (from about 6 inches on a good day) to more than four feet now, have made the prospects of eliminating lost files an attainable reality.

In a typical firm setup, tethered RFID scanners are placed in high traffic areas such as central file rooms or on the desks of key staff. The simple act of then carrying an RFID tagged file near the reader records its location. Include the periodic inventory (weekly, daily, hourly depending upon the necessity) of all offices within the firm using a portable RFID scanner to catch any exceptions. Add to this contemporary software recording all the movement and you have a state-of-the-art legal records management solution. Files no longer get lost. In fact, they never even become missing.

Washington is one hectic place to work and live. Why increase the pressure by regularly operating at DEFCON 1? Spend a little money, apply a little technology, implement RFID, and enjoy level 5 (or at least level 2).