Tips Tuesday: Random Memory or Central Database?

As lawyers we write a copious amount of memos and opinions. If you’re like me, you often go back to prior memos and opinions when you’re writing new ones. Perhaps it’s to borrow wording or refresh yourself on that particular area of the law, but no matter what you find yourself looking for and relying upon them.

There tends to be two general organizational systems that I’ve come across with respect to referencing these at a later date. One is the “random memory” approach – which functions like it sounds. It involves relying on your memory to think of what file it was that might have that memo or opinion kicking around on it and then hoping that you’ll be able to remember what that was when you need it.

The second is a bit more organized, the “central database” approach – which again, functions like it sounds. When I was a summer student I thought it’d probably serve me well later to have all of my memos and opinions in a single directory so that I could reference them later – which turned out to be a correct assumption. Now nearly 5 years later I have a very useful directory full of research I’ve done and opinions I’ve gave over the years. If you’re just starting out, or very early in your practice, it will be much easier for you to start one of these central databases. If you’re a bit more seasoned, it’s never too late to start – and it’s likely your random memory approach will still come in handy to assist in starting a central database.

-Charlene Scheffelmair (@cscheffy11)


  1. Is that just the modern take on any filing system ? The key to me is the retrieval system and the organization so that when you need or want something from that data you know where and how to look

  2. Hi Alex,

    Thanks for the comment! Totally agree that a retrieval system is key. I think in a lot of small firms, mine included, many don’t have a dedicated file management system/program and are just using a server with folders. In those cases, you have to do a bit of extra work setting yourself up for success and this tip is one of many ways to do that.


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