Suggested Steps for Closing, Retaining and Destroying Files
Determine whether you may close the file
The following are some factors that you may wish to consider in determining whether a file has been completed and should be closed.
- Have you completed all work that you were retained to complete?
- Have you reported to the client?
- Have you forwarded an account to the client?
- Has the account been paid or has the firm written off any balance owing on the final account?
- Have all undertakings been satisfied and all trust conditions been honoured?
- Have you dealt with any balance in the trust account?
Strip the File
- Have you removed unnecessary duplicate copies?
- Have you removed or copied material for precedent or future use?
- If so, have you stripped the precedent material of all personal information within the meaning of PIPEDA?
- Have you returned documents belonging to the client or third parties?
- Have you determined copies of which documents you will retain?
Communicate with the Client
- Have you advised the client that the file is being closed and will be destroyed after a certain date? This advice may be contained in the retainer agreement.
Establish a Destruction Date
- Have you established a file destruction date?
- Have you established a file review date to review the file prior to destruction or alternatively, do you have a system in place to ensure that the file destruction date is postponed where there are changes in circumstances during the file retention period that necessitate a postponement of the date?
- Have you entered these date(s) into your tickler system?
Classify File as Closed
- Have you classified the file as closed?
- Have you entered this data into your office system?
Determine the Method of Storage
Have you determined the method(s) of storage?
If documents are going to be stored electronically, consider:
- Do you have a legal or ethical obligation to store the file in paper form?
- Do you have the necessary hardware and software to retrieve these documents during the retention period?
- Do you have a procedure in place for ensuring that you have the hardware and software to retrieve these documents during the retention period?
- If the documents are likely to be used as documentary evidence, have you complied with any evidentiary rules governing admissibility of electronic copies?
- Do you have a backup system for the materials stored electronically?
- Have you considered whether documents, data or information should be encrypted?
Place the File In Storage
- Is the storage location secure?
- Have you ensured that you can meet confidentiality obligations?
- Do you have adequate insurance to cover loss or damage?
Review the File Prior Destruction
- Have you reviewed the file before destruction to determine if the destruction date should be changed?
Destruction of the File
- Have you ensured that the file will be destroyed in a way that will maintain paralegal/client confidentiality?
Establish a Record of Destruction or Disposition
- Have you established a record of the destruction in accordance with your retention policy?