What Law Firm Managers Need to Know About Records Management

What Law Firm Managers Need to Know About Records Management

In a law firm, information is a kind of currency. From client files to court petitions to case reviews, law firms revolve around information. To minimize risk, it’s important for law firm managers to stay up to date on all of the latest changes in legal and ethical guidelines regarding records management and retention. It’s also in the best interests of law firm managers to create a comprehensive records management policy that the entire office will consistently follow.

Developing a Records Management Policy

All law office policies should be developed in accordance with national and state ethical guidelines. In Arizona, for instance, the ethics committee has recommended keeping client files for five years after the termination of representation. A law firm’s records management policy should include a discussion of the need for security. It’s the responsibility of the law firm to ensure every client’s sensitive information is safeguarded. When choosing an off-site records storage service (either digital or physical), security should be the primary concern.

Notifying Clients

The best time to make clients aware of the law firm’s records management policy is upon engagement of services. Include a synopsis of your firm’s file retention policy in the client contract. After the conclusion of the legal matter, send a follow-up note that reminds the client of the policy. This eliminates the need to contact the client again when the file is scheduled for destruction.

Destroying a Client File

Every law firm needs a methodical system for destroying client files. A secure, reliable method of destruction should be used for all hardcopy and digital files. It is usually not considered sufficient to simply ribbon shred hardcopy files. Cross-shredding is the preferred method.

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