I think my record was five boxes of documents totally more than 5000 pages. This was for a desk top report about a young man who committed suicide. Nowadays it is not uncommon to me to receive more than 400 pages of documentation. At face value this can seem a nightmare.
I have developed some strategies for managing this mountain of paper. Before I read anything I put everything in chronological order. I find that by doing this I can progressively worked my way through, pulling out relevant nuggets and, because the reports are in sequence I can fairly quickly move backwards and forwards through all the material to get an overall picture of what has happened.
Whilst I am reading this I am also dictating various items using DragonDictate so that gradually I build up a summary of what has happened. At this stage I don’t care about English or grammar I simply want to get the relevant material assembled in chronological order.
Once that phase is completed I leave aside the documents, making sure they are still in chronological order, and then work on the summary pages writing the assembled data as a narrative. During this process I sometimes have to refer back to the written material where the retained order is very helpful in locating documents.
Once I have written the report using all the data I can then form an opinion based on the questions I have been asked.
I then wait aday or two and reread the report to see whether or not the opinion is consistent with all the data and whether there are any other matters that I should have put in the opinion.
This process seems to work.
The other problem I have with these massive files is that I am usually asked to quote a fee before the file is sent. I can only do so based on the number of hours I will be working on the file. I always underestimate. Nowadays what I do is to give a range and to make sure that I both stay within that range and at times charge at the bottom end of the range if that is the number of hours that I have worked.