Backup, Center For Practice Management, Cloud Computing, Document Generation, Microsoft Office, Productivity, Security

The Problem with Dropbox

Pardon the clickbait headline. There really isn’t a problem with Dropbox, per se. The problem is that many law firms are using Dropbox and multiple other hardware and services to store documents. Saving and sharing documents from multiple places can lead to a host of issues for the office, the least of which is overspending.

Are users in your firm saving documents to multiple places like a local drive, a local file server, Dropbox, ShareFile, Google Workspace, OneDrive, SharePoint, Acrobat DC, a document management system, or a practice management system? What about on a home computer, external drives, and thumb drives? Are digital documents stored in a practice specific system like SoftPro or Wealth Counsel? Are document attachments removed from email and stored in a central location? Without a plan and documentation many firms and law offices many firms have digital documents saved in many places. This can create quite a few opportunities for problems to occur.

Some firms, for example, may save files on a local server for the most part but share them with clients through ShareFile or Dropbox. Or users may save documents to the document or practice management system unless it is a file they are working on for professional development, in which case they may store it on their local hard drive. Some firms distinguish where they store working files, versus closed files.

Which Which Is Which?

When you save documents in multiple places it makes it more difficult to ascertain which is a working copy, a final copy, which copy is shared, who has access to it, versions, and more. Your file names may be different for the same document. You may add underscores to try to keep up with versions and editions. Many cloud storage services have file versioning, so you don’t have to create quite so many copies of the same document, only renaming for major versions (e.g., _draft, _ shared, _final, _executed).

Email Attachments

When you attach a document to an email you create a copy of the document. The document then leaves your control and is stored on someone else’s servers, clouds, or drives. Sharing a link to a file or giving access to a client portal is a better practice for sharing files without creating ownership and version issues. When someone a file attached to email, does the firm have a mechanism or policy to indicate how that file is to be stored? Named? If not, it may sit in a siloed inbox, outside of normal backup, access, and retention.

Retention And Destruction

When electronic documents are filed in multiple places, some outside of a firm protocol for retention and destruction, you may run the risk of not adequately identifying the triggering event to “start the clock” on retention. The file could be inadvertently deleted before the retention date or kept beyond retention.  Your firm should decide what the file is (electronic or paper or both), where closed files will be stored, and ensure that the entire file is together including and in a format for long term storage, like PDF.


Files stored on a local computer, external drives, or in third-party online storage may not be adequately backed up. If you need to know where everyone is storing documents tell them you are reviewing your backup protocols and ask if they are storing documents anywhere the firm may not be backing up, in which case the files cannot be recovered if corrupted or deleted.


In addition to redundancy, a lack of control, and inadequate backup, paying for multiple file storage. If you subscribe to MS 365 Business Standard for $12.50 per user per month, plus subscribe to Dropbox Standard at $15 per user per month you should consider why you have both, as the Microsoft 365 Business Standard comes with SharePoint and OneDrive for document sync, sharing and storage. You may have a good reason to have both, but you should be able to articulate that reason and explore the pros and cons. If you have Microsoft 365 and are paying for Sharefile just to share documents with clients, AND you have a cloud-based practice management application with a client portal, you can explore how to simplify and reduce your overhead, plus consider what is easiest for you and your clients.

Onboarding And Offboarding

When someone starts at the firm can you tell them where to find template files? Go-bys? Gold plated examples already generated by the firm? Are these documents siloed or are they discoverable? Would a search yield some of the firm’s best work product so the new hire doesn’t spend time recreating the wheel? On the other side, when someone leaves the firm or takes extended absence does the firm have easy access to their documents, or is there a mad scramble to try to figure out where documents are and who can access them?

Pick One

You may have a very good reason for keeping files in multiple locations. You may keep closed files on a file server, active files in Dropbox synchronized with Clio and backed up Dropbox Backup. Or you may keep closed files on external hard drives, or in a Google Workspace folder and your active working documents in Worldox and use Sharefile to share and receive documents with clients. However, you may have documents stored in places known (and unknown) that cost you time, money, and frustration. Worse, your firm uses a local file server with a slow VPN so several folks in the office store files in personal iCloud or Google accounts. Remember, if you aren’t paying for the product, you ARE the product.

If you want to have files that are stored locally and in the cloud, or stored in a cloud repository as well as a practice management application, investigate what synchronizing options you may have. For instance, you can store documents in MS OneDrive and synchronize them with Clio. You may have options to create one document that is accessible from multiple places and always kept up to date.

Keep Files Organized

Does your firm have file name and folder conventions? If you are storing files outside of a legal document or practice management system that defaults to a client/matter structure are users instructed where to store documents and how to name them? The process of creating a client/matter folder structure should begin with opening the matter. Administrators or solo practitioners can create a template folder structure and copy/paste it to the new matter. This will help keep files organized. One incredibly simply method is to create the structure on your shared network or cloud drive under a folder named “folder templates” and then create a client folder for a new client and drag and drop the folder structure. Or you can get fancy in Windows and write a batch script that will create the folder structure wherever you drag the file and double click it to run. If your firm is using MS 365’s SharePoint, you can create template document libraries at the admin level.


Review your file storage solutions. Make sure they make sense for your team and your clients. Consider ways to streamline and organize, track, and retain. Make sure you can adequately backup and protect your client and personnel files. Digital files, just like paper files, need careful curation and consideration in a law firm.