Today were going to talk about some of the issues that revolve around retaining the records associated with your clients.
Before we get started, if you missed them, here are some of the topics that we have recently touched on:
- The 7 Laws that Impact HR Records Retention
- The 4 Best Practices to Avoid Becoming Addicted To Hoarding
- The 6 “Must Haves” to Achieve the Legality of Your Records
This week we are going to dig into the process that generates all of those records, from the engagement process to final disposition.
How many of you, after practicing for a few years, have turned around and asked yourself, “where did it all come from”?
- Client Records / Correspondence / Pleadings
- Notes / Memoranda / Telephone messages
- Exhibits / Case Printouts / Research materials
That is exactly the situation that a Midwest real estate, estate planning, and litigation firm found themselves in. During the tenure of their practice, a larger percentage of their office was dedicated to records management rather than practicing law. Active paper records engulfed the work areas being found on desks, filing cabinets and Banker Boxes and archived records consumed the entire 2nd floor.
When analyzing the situation the Attorney’s realized that it was a systemic problem spanning across all phases of their process including:
- An undefined client engagement process (how do you handle information from shoe boxes to in boxes?)
- A lack of consistency in the structure of the filing system (every lawyer had their own process)
- A porous security scheme (how do you track who touched a paper record and what they did with it)
- An inconsistent back up and redundancy policy (how do you back up a Bankers Box)
In a recent poll of active law firms, almost all agreed that the volatile nature of the paper records make them a risk in regard to their unauthorized access, loss or destruction by disaster, let alone by the simple fact that they take too long to access. 73% of those firms indicated that they need to have immediate access to their records, with 63% stating that they want to be as digital as possible. The question is where do you start? The following best practices should be considered when you analyze your records management environment:
- Begin with the end in mind. Map out each step of the engagement process.
- Streamline the silos. Digitize all documents to be retained in one central solution.
- Adhere to structure. Minimize the need for a subject-matter-expert for retrieval.
- Provide permissions. Determine the individuals/groups that have access to what information.
- Audit activities. Track what, where and when someone accessed a record.
- Religiously enforce redundancies. Back-ups should be regular, off site and mirrored geographically.
- Retain only the required. Cull closed files for client property, retaining the rest based on industry guidelines.
We know that you are forced to retain those records, but with a little forethought they don’t have to consume your office or your life. Even if you simply start with digitizing the next client file that you complete, you will be on your way.
About the author
Document Mountain is known as a leader in document management by companies across the globe. Document Mountain currently streamlines document related processes for hundreds of companies so that thousands of end-users can securely store and manage millions of documents on a monthly basis. To learn more about Document Mountain grab a free special report on, “Discrimination Lawsuits on the Rise” but the best way to determine if we can help your specific situation in a brief 20 minute conversation. Ready to see if we can help? Click here to schedule a brief 20 minute conversation.