One of the most common questions we get at Lawyers Mutual concerns retention of closed case files.
Because this is such a popular topic, we have developed a resource guide, “File Management: Retention and Destruction,” to assist attorneys in spotting issues they need to think through when disposing of files.
“File Management: Retention and Destruction” is intended as a tool to help you develop your own procedures to suit the unique needs of your practice. It contains State Bar rules and regulations, ABA guidelines and best practice recommendations. It also includes sample policies, checklists and forms.
Here is a key point: the sooner your firm addresses file retention and destruction, the easier it will be to implement. Many attorneys do this early on. Their engagement letters set out their standards for what documents go to the client and what documents will be kept by the lawyer.
Technology can be a great aid in managing files. Initially, it may seem daunting to move to a paperless file system.
Don’t be afraid.
Lawyers Mutual moved to a paperless system in our claims department several years ago. Not only has it improved efficiency, but it has significantly reduced our onsite and offsite storage costs. When we implemented the system, we included instructions for opening, organizing, closing and destroying claims files.
Although technology places a built-in limit on how much data can be stored, it is still a good idea to treat electronic files like paper ones by giving them a specific destruction date.
“File Management: Retention and Destruction” will answer most of your questions on how long to keep closed files. And it will suggest practical pointers on how to safely and ethically dispose of them.
You can find the guide on our website. If you are as technically challenged as I am, you may be tempted to print the resource guide for quick reference. Feel free to do so.
Speaking of being technically challenged, I am glad to report that I have finally learned how to survive without using carbon paper. If the term carbon paper is unfamiliar, ask someone over 60 what it is. They will get a kick out of the question.
John Hester has over twenty-five years of experience handling claims for North Carolina attorneys. When he’s not repairing legal problems, John enjoys collecting Indian art and he and his wife commissioned a 16.5 foot tall, 800 pound totem pole for his home. Contact John at 800.662.8843 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Author
John Hester is Senior Claims Counsel for Lawyers Mutual. He has over thirty years of experience handling claims for North Carolina attorneys. Contact John at 800.662.8843 or email@example.com.