October 27, 2021

Tried and True: The Tickler File

BY: James “Rob” Elliott

Even with hundreds of different cloud-based and online options to keep your law firm organized and running smoothly, many lawyers still prefer the feel of a file when heading into the courtroom. Keeping those files tamed can sometimes be a challenging task. That is where the subject of this article comes into play, the tickler file. Whenever I mention a tickler file to a colleague there is usually a vague recollection of hearing about them at one time, but not entirely sure of what it is, or how exactly it works.

A tickler file is an invaluable organizational tool which helps to stay on top of deadlines and upcoming court dates. They can store all sorts of memos and reminders, neatly tucked away and out of sight in your office until the exact moment when you need them. To set up the tickler file you will need thirty-one different hanging files or folders labeled 1-31 and 12 hanging files each labeled with the months of the year. Each daily file is in the front, beginning with today’s file followed by each successive day’s file. For example, today’s date is October 26, so the first file in line would be the file labeled “26” followed by “27” through “31”. Then the succeeding month’s file, in this example, November. Then the numerical files would begin again at “1” until the last file is reached, which in this case would be “25”. After the final numerical file, the monthly files begin again with December through September.

At the end of each day that empty folder would then move to the end of the numerical sequence. In this example the “26” would slot in between the “25” and the November file. Once October ends, then the October file would move to the back of the file cabinet behind September and wait patiently until it resurfaces the following year.

Although it may take time to originally organize your tickler file it will save you tons of time and headaches searching for files in the future. Using a ticker file to keep track of multiple court dates is a very visual way to see what is happening on any given day or what the following week may have in store. A file placed in a certain folder is exactly where you need it to be on the day when you need it. This has been a valuable tool in my practice keeping track of traffic and criminal cases with multiple continuances and meetings prior to trial.

A tickler file is a fantastic way to keep you accountable and make sure your “to-do” list gets done. Anything that is incomplete can be moved to a later date when you will have time to revisit whatever the task may be. It is a great tool that still has a specific place and purpose in your law office no matter how many cloud-based solutions may try to dethrone it.

About the Author

James “Rob” Elliott is a general practice attorney from Yorktown, Virginia. He is the Owner and Managing Attorney for the Law Office of James R. Elliott. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the Docket Call Newsletter.