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Ask the Expert: How to name documents in a document management system

Q: “I’m looking for a naming protocol guideline—a compilation of legal and non-legal abbreviations and acronyms for naming documents in our document management system.”

A: (Courtesy of Diane Camacho, CLM, SPHR, of DLC Consulting Service) Try not to abbreviate too many words in document titles. If there are too many abbreviations to remember, people make them up. And don’t get too creative. Naming a document shouldn’t require a 10 page document with codes and instructions. We want to save our documents quickly.

Many of us go back to the days of 7 or 8 character limits for titles. We can create names now that are almost endless; however document names should be no more than 20 words. If you get too long, it is hard to scan a list and the names won’t convert into other systems.

Always put spaces in your title names. Our eyes naturally read faster if there are spaces. Also, you won’t be able to accurately search by document name if there are no spaces.

Abbreviations should be obvious or easily discernable to a new employee.

Some standard abbreviations:

Agr – Agreement
CMC – Case Management Conference
Dec – Declaration
Depo – Depo
EIR – Environmental Impact Report
Int – Interrogatories
Ltr – Letter
Memo – Memorandum
MPA – Motions of Points and Authorities
MSJ – Motion for Summary Judgement
Re – Regarding
RFP – Request for Proposal
Rpt – Report

There will be standard abbreviations for other documents depending on practice and office norms.

Naming suggestions:

Ltr to or from [External Parties Name] re [Subject]
Ltr to James Smith re lease changes
Ltr from James Smith re lease changes
Option to put Date in front of above 16.10.20 (year first and two digits so they line up correctly in a list).
16.10.20 Ltr to James Smith re lease changes

[Document Type] [Location] or [Identifying Factor] [Year]
Lease for 1724 Columbus Street 2016
Building Lease for 1724 Columbus Street 2016
EPA Rpt for Mexico 2016

[Party Filing Motion – Either Name or Party Designation] Motion for [Name of Motion] or [Document]
Jones’ Motion to Compel
Plaintiff’s Response to Jones’ Form Int – Set 1

Editor’s Note: What would you add to this list? Do you have a document naming protocol you’d like to share? Help out your colleagues and send your tips and stories to

Editor’s picks:

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