Best way to keep a log about a person?
January 14, 2013 1:02 PM   Subscribe

We have a person we have to deal with on an ongoing basis for a legal issue who is a bit of a PITA and we have been asked to start documenting our contact with her. How?

What I am struggling with is how to keep everything organized together: emails, phone calls, dates and times of things, receipts, and so on in a way that we can synthesize it in response to queries. So if the lawyer calls us (as he did today) and says 'give me the dates of the last three times you went to city X, what time she got there for the meetings you scheduled, what you talked about at the meetings,plus receipts for the hotel during that visit' we can pull it up in a minute. Also, if something has a document (or more than one document) that goes with it (e.g. there was a phone call, then an email, which resulted in a document plus a receipt plus a reference to a past document) how we can somehow keep everything organized together so they cross-reference each other.

So...print everything? Scan receipts and write up meetings and then forward to gmail and tag? Some iPad app I haven't thought of yet? I can't quite get my head around the easiest way to manage all those bits of info (emails, phone calls, personal contacts, notes, receipts etc.) so that we can easily pull it together to answer a query like the one above.
posted by JoannaC to Grab Bag (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Evernote is pretty much made for stuff like this (keeping disparate items organized). Use tags like "Chicago," "Phone Call", etc so you can easily pull up lists of all the items related to those tags.
posted by desjardins at 1:05 PM on January 14, 2013 [4 favorites]

Also, you can "scan" stuff in Evernote by taking a photo with a mobile device.
posted by desjardins at 1:06 PM on January 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

TurboScan is a great App for scanning documents on the fly.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:08 PM on January 14, 2013

Whatever you do, please realize that any of these communications may be made public. I don't know whether you're in a public position (e.g., you work for a public educational institution/government agency) or just a private office setting, but you can never be too careful. Even the tiniest emails you send around the office could be -- depending on the laws of your local jurisdiction and your particular situation -- subject to a FOIA request or subpoena.

So if you don't want anyone knowing that you refer to this person (supposedly) privately as "that crazy lady" or "she is just a PITA," let alone any number of much less savory things, DO NOT include this kind of language anywhere in written, forwardable and/or reproduceable communications. The smallest comment can bite you in the ass like wow.
posted by Madamina at 1:14 PM on January 14, 2013 [4 favorites]

Came to nth Madamina.

I learned this at the phone company. Stick to the facts m'am. No editorializing.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:15 PM on January 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Even the tiniest emails you send around the office could be -- depending on the laws of your local jurisdiction and your particular situation -- subject to a FOIA request or subpoena.

Only the records of the federal government are subject to FOIA. There are state law equivalents, but again, they apply to government records. Unless the OP is making government records, her notes won't be subject to a public records request.

Yes, the notes would be subject to a subpoena in a lawsuit, but so are just about all of the documents in your house, your social media, and your emails, too. A subpoena is just a discovery device, and things are subject to discovery unless they are somehow exempt. That said, I think that is a non-issue because OP is doing this at a lawyer's request so presumably the idea is that these documents may be issued as evidence in a potential lawsuit. OP should follow her lawyer's advice regarding content. Editorializing might be appropriate depending on what the issue is. For example, of the OP is being harassed, it would help her case if the notes reflected that she felt annoyed and oppressed.

I think what OP needs is a document management application. This would feature both scans of the documents as well as a searchable database. I recommend that OP Google for home document management software and see what the options are.

A note taking app for a smartphone would be good for recording phone calls and in-person meetings, which often have no paper trail of their own.
posted by Tanizaki at 1:56 PM on January 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

I use DevonThink to organize notes, emails, websites, pdfs, etc. You can add tags just like Evernote and then create folders that contain items with those tags. It's very much like Evernote in that you can save pdfs, scanned receipts, create logs of phone calls and archived emails, but it does not sync to outside servers like Evernote does. You might want to be careful about where your information is stored/synced to, since this seems to be a sensitive situation.

As an aside, I agree with what was previously said: do not, under any circumstances, continue to use adjectives like you've used above in your note-taking. Stick with nouns and verbs and simply describe what happened, not your interpretation of the circumstances or your feelings about them. Document facts, put feelings in a personal, non-public, secure journal. Rather than say someone is a PITA, say, "Person X contacted me seven times between the hours of eight and nine am on January 15 2013. I answered six of those seven attempts. The topic of conversation was X. We agreed to Y."
posted by absquatulate at 2:26 PM on January 14, 2013

My wife and I set up a google calendar. Things that happened got put in the calendar, and emails, letters, receipts, and whatnot were filed in a binder chronologically. In the calendar we kept notes about letters/calls recieved and their contents and major points, etc.

That allowed us to reference the date/time of the event with some ease, and if we had need of the documentation we could find it.

Before we used the e-calendar, I had used a daily planner to keep notes in. Again, the planner noted the dates/times of events, and a binder kept the documentation.

This was just a long running, but very contentious custody suit, and it worked very well for us. The key is to keep it simple.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 2:29 PM on January 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Thanks, Pogo. That is exactly the kind of scenario it is and I think a calendar might be our solution. Fwiw I know what kind of info to keep- no worries about editorializing or anything, I know the deal. I am just looking for *how* to organize given the type of questions we are getting from the lawyer. Like, it is not just 'forward me document x' it is more synthesizing stuff and I just was not sure how to keep track of it all.
posted by JoannaC at 3:39 PM on January 14, 2013

My current organisation is slow to adapt new technology so no app advice here, but using a naming convention for all files makes it easier to find/sort stuff electronically. I was so glad when long file names became available.


- yymmdd hhmm (I only use hhmm if I have multiple entries with the same description on the same day - that way it is easy to see chronology)
- letter representing type of information eg e = email, r = receipt, m = memo etc
- from initials or company acronym (or both for complex stuff)
- to initials
- then general description eg ROC = record of conversation,

so typically

130115 1539 e jc pf RFI clarification

translates to

on 15 jan 2013 in the afternoon an email was sent from JoannaC to pogo Fuzzybutt clarifying the information requested.
posted by insomniax at 7:25 PM on January 14, 2013

If you have a confidential CRM, you can treat the person as a customer-- any CRM for sales or other customer relations should have the ability to capture dated contact entries, notes, probably file attachments (e.g. scanned or photographed receipts), etc.
posted by Sunburnt at 6:13 AM on January 15, 2013

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