As a lawyer, you know how much paper your firm produces on a daily basis. You use paper to record important information, but you cannot dispose of this material in a haphazard manner. In fact, certain original documents must be kept for a minimum length of time per Ontario Bar Association rules.
But file retention can be time-consuming, inconvenient, and expensive without professional help. That’s why many law firms turn to document management services for secure and convenient legal file storage.
File Retention Rules for Ontario Lawyers
According to the Ontario Law Society an attorney can dispose of client files after the proper “passage of time.” The opinion does not state how long this period is, but uses a fifteen-year retention period as its basis. However, the opinion suggests that the length of file retention isn’t as important as having a solid file retention policy.
The guideline suggests that law firms should include the following components in their file retention and destruction policy:
- Guidelines for the protection of confidential information
- Procedures for turning files over to clients, if requested
- Precautions to avoid accidentally destroying files against the client’s interests
The opinion also states that firms should destroy files in a manner that does not sacrifice client confidentiality. Disposing files in a trash bin without shredding them, for example, can violate regulations. Firms should retain items that could still have value to a client, such as original documents and notes.
Maintaining a Record of Destruction
The lawyer should keep a record of all files destroyed or returned to the client in accordance with the lawyer’s file destruction policy. The record at a minimum should contain the client’s name, address, file number, a brief description of the nature of the matter, the file closure date, the file destruction date or date that the file was delivered to the client, and the name of the lawyer who authorized the destruction or delivery. This will assist a lawyer to counter allegations that a file was destroyed indiscriminately.
The Hassle of On-Site Storage
Once you determine how long you will store the various documents your legal practice produces, you will need plenty of space to store these records until it is safe to dispose of them, and then a plan for secure document destruction. But even the best, most organized on-site file retention and destruction system is not without issues. The possible pitfalls include:
- Insufficient storage space on site to warehouse all documents that must be kept.
- Accidental destruction of important files, resulting in spoliation of evidence.
- Loss of important files resulting in charges of legal malpractice.
- Destruction or loss of confidential information, breaching client confidentiality.
In addition to the possible legal ramifications, do-it-yourself legal file storage can be time-consuming, messy, and confusing. When you have clients to work with and cases to win, it is not in your best interest to worry about file storage.
Convenience and Peace of Mind with Knight Archives
Legal file storage is a sensitive practice. Proper document retention and destruction requires knowledge of legal ethics, guidelines, laws, and confidentiality agreements, as well as standard archival practices. Going through this process without professional help can result in headaches and legal consequences.
Ease the burden by hiring the document management professionals at Knight Archives. They offer:
- Convenient and affordable offsite records storage at a secure, locally-owned warehouse,
- Electronic document scanning and digital access to your files,
- Secure destruction services in compliance with legal and ethical guidelines, and
- A customized logistics plan for your firm’s document storage needs.
Are you ready to store your important legal files while enjoying security, affordability, and convenience? Contact Knight Archives to learn more about our legal records management services today.