Larry is correct that each project has a subject and in that sense each is a subject file. So, too, with an accounts payable file, the vendor is the subject. When I have done work for law firms it is true that each file has a client and matter number, so do the architecture, engineering, consulting firms with which I have worked have some similar method of identifying a file for billing. However, as records managers we must not confuse accounting with classification. A client/matter number may be closed by accounting long after the file has become inactive.
>From a higher level, the level at which we classify the work done in the enterprise, all these files are part of different processes. In the architecture and engineering company I worked for they distinguished groups and files for interior design, offices and hospitals--their major groups. The reason these groups are distinguished is not because the subject is different, but because the processes themselves are different.
Let's look at law in particular. I have been fortunate to have created file plans and schedules for some of the oldest firms in the U.S. Each group of attorneys creates a particular kind of product. Even within, say corporate, each group of attorneys has a specialty. Some specialize in financing of a very particular type. Some specialize in mergers. Some specialize in general corporate maintenance like review of contracts. Each of these specialties creates a different product and each requires a different process with a different set of procedures, review, documents, etc. One could certainly say that these are different subjects, but they are different business processes as well. Just as in manufacturing one must find the difference that makes a difference in calling out one manufacturing process from another, one must also find the different that makes a difference in calling out one activity from another.
As I stated before, my advice is that when you find yourself wanting to use the word "subject," think twice. There is probably another angle to look at it. What librarians do when they classify is miles away from what we do.
Carol E.B. Choksy, Ph.D., CRM
IRAD Strategic Consultant. Inc.
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