Records Retention Requirements for Law Firms and Legal Depar

ARMA Records Management Quarterly, April 1991 | Go to article overview

Records Retention Requirements for Law Firms and Legal Depar


NOTICE: This article contains information related to sensitive and important legal issues. No section of this article should be construed as providing legal advice. All legal decisions related to records and information management should be reviewed by competent legal counsel.

This article addresses some special problems related to establishing a records retention program for law firms and legal departments. Law firms are private organizations providing legal services to different clients. Legal departments are departments within organizations that provide legal services to only one client -- the organization that employs the attorney.

Often the issues that motivate an organization to establish a records retention program -- space savings, improved access to information, legal compliance and litigation protection -- may not motivate lawyers to undertake a retention program for their organizations. Some reasons why law firms and legal departments show less interest in records retention are as follows:

* Few, if any, laws affect the retention of records.

* The attorney-client privilege generally prevents records from being subpoenaed during litigation.

* Lawyers keep records for long periods so that they can use reference material from one legal matter in the preparation of another.

* Lawyers do not want to review individual case files prior to destruction, but insist that this type of review take place.

* Lawyers are rarely concerned about the cost-savings issues provided by an effective records retention program.

LAWS AFFECTING RECORDS RETENTION

All organizations must comply with legal requirements related to their general business records. For law firms and legal departments, general business records consist of primarily accounting, employment and other administrative services records. These records, however, constitute only a small percentage of the total records used or created by lawyers.

Law firms must also be concerned about destroying records and other property that belongs to their clients. Clients provide them these records to assist them in preparing the case. Sometimes law firms serve as the corporate secretary for their corporate clients. As corporate secretaries, law firms create and preserve the corporate minutes and other documents for their corporate clients.

All states have laws that establish standards of conduct for professionals in a "custodial or fiduciary capacity." Lawyers, accountants and others that either hold the property of another (custodial) or the money of another (fiduciary) must protect those assets. Records belonging to another, for example, may not be destroyed, even after microfilming, without the permission of the owner. Unless these records are returned to their owners, law firms may have no choice but to keep them forever.

The legal files -- case files, client files, legal opinions, legal research, etc. -- represent the largest volume of records in the law firms and legal departments. Except for the custodial or fiduciary issue, no state or federal agencies regulate the recordkeeping requirements for these records. No standards nor guidelines exist indicating which legal files must be kept and how long.

In the absence of specific legal requirements for retention, most lawyers will opt to keep records to meet their perceived business needs -- future contacts with clients or reference, or for other legal considerations.

LEGAL CONSIDERATIONS

Both law firms and legal departments will maintain case files minimally until the appeal period has lapsed. Most states establish a relatively short period from the conclusion of a case when an appeal must be filed -- typically 30 days.

Law firms may be subject to malpractice suits initiated by unhappy clients. Most states specify a two to three year statute of limitations for legal malpractice or professional liability. If no specific malpractice statute exists, the typical statute of limitations for personal or property injury is also two to three years. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Records Retention Requirements for Law Firms and Legal Depar
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.