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Records management myths of note – I and II (by George Cunningham)

Myth 1 – The law says that as a lawyer, you have to keep everything forever.

Truth 1 – Not true. If fact, ethics opinions (Michigan Ethics Opinion R-5 (1989)) state that lawyers should have and enforce a records retention schedule because to do otherwise may put their client at risk. If the corporate client gets rid of something but outside counsel keeps a copy and counsel is then subpoenaed as part of an investigation involving the client, counsel (in most cases) will likely be called on to produce.

Myth 2 – Laws specify how long you have to keep client (or case, or matter, or….) files.

Truth 2 – Few laws or regulations say anything at all about how long counsel must keep client files. There is, however, a wealth of occasionally contradictory ethics opinions published by the ABA and many state bar associations on the topic of the lawyer’s responsibilities so far as managing and disposing of client files in concerned [George Cunningham, Pelli Group, on records management (See the second two myths in Cunningham’s post of March 23, 2007.).