Shredding for Your Law Firm
Let’s face it, lawyers deal with a lot of paper. Look around your office. There are old files stacked in individual offices, and the file room is running out of space with files on top of the cabinets because there is no room for them. Is your law firm is paying monthly storage bills to house all of your closed case files, and the bill just keeps growing? It’s time for your law firm to implement a legal file destruction program.
Who Owns the Legal File?
Files belong to clients, not to lawyers. A client who has paid for legal services is entitled to the entire file except for certain internal documents of the firm. Before you destroy any file, you need to offer to return it to your client. If your client wants the file back then that saves you a lot of time and money. But what about the clients who do not want or need their files, or never respond to any of your communications concerning their files. How long do you need to keep them?
How Long Should You Keep Closed Files?
In the state of Connecticut, all documents shall be kept seven years from the date of completion of services rendered by an attorney. All original documents signed by the client and documents concerning legal rights or obligations must be kept seven years from the date they were signed or the termination of those rights or obligations, whichever is longer. These original documents can’t be destroyed until the client or owner is mailed written notice from the lawyer at least 30 days before the destruction of the document or documents.
In the commonwealth of Massachusetts, a lawyer must keep client files at least six years after completion of the matter or termination of the representation in the matter. The exceptions are if the lawyer has transferred the file or items to the client, another counsel, or as otherwise directed by the client. You may also have the client agree in writing to an alternative arrangement for the file’s custody or destruction. For cases involving minors, the legal files shall not be destroyed until at least six years after the minor reaches the age of majority.
Legal files need to be maintained if the lawyer knows or should reasonably know that if the client has any other legal matter pending or anticipated.
Proper Legal File Destruction
When you destroy old client files, remember that you are required to preserve your client’s confidentiality. You can’t simply throw your old files in an ordinary garbage can. There are some documents that don’t need to be destroyed in a case file. But why should you waste time going through it or take a chance of making a mistake? Err on the side of caution and destroy the entire case file when it is allowable. The best and most secure way to destroy legal files is to have them shredded by a professional document destruction company. A mobile shredding company will come to your office to destroy your client files.
Document Shredding Options
Onsite document destruction companies offer two types of services, one-time and scheduled service. Onetime shredding is for the law firms that need to destroy their legal files occasionally. Onetime service allows you to call for document destruction whenever you need it. Scheduled service is more structured and consistent. You are provided with security containers that are placed throughout your office so legal documents can be placed in them daily. Then the shredding service comes to your office on a regular schedule to empty and destroy the contents.
FileShred is a locally owned document shredding and hard drive destruction service in Connecticut that will help you implement the best information destruction program for your law firm. Give us a call or visit our website at www.fileshred.net.