Law firms are notorious for accumulating box after box of sensitive case files and other confidential information. Attorneys are held to high standards when it comes to protecting client information.
Files must be kept for a certain period of time after the case closes, and some files may not be destroyed. RPC 209 requires that attorneys keep documents for a minimum of six years after a case closes before document shredding can occur.
However, items such as estate documents, real estate documents and some financial documents should be kept forever. An attorney may destroy a file prior to the six-year minimum, but he or she must have permission from the client. Since files are the client’s property, the attorney also has the option of giving the file to the client.
1. Confidential Information Security
All client information must be kept confidential and attorneys may not destroy case files without permission from the client or for a minimum of six years – other than those documents that should be kept longer. In some cases, “records” must be kept, not copies. If a law specifies “records,” the original document must be kept.
In cases where an attorney is required to keep copies, digital copies will usually suffice. Before shredding law firm documents, an attorney should always check the bar rules and the statutes to ensure those documents may be shredded. This way, documents that are no longer needed have no chance of falling into the wrong hands. Documents that must be kept in their original form should be in a locked filing cabinet.
2. Sharing Case Files
Over time, a client may need copies of his or her file. If the client or the opposing side re-opens the case and the client wishes to use a different attorney or go with self-representation, the client will need the file. Since the file is the client’s property, an attorney must give the client his or her file or forward it to the attorney the client specifies in his or her request.
Otherwise, the case file may not be shared with anyone. If the client does not want the file, the attorney should review legal requirements for shredding documents, and then go through the file and keep all documents that are required to be kept past the six-year minimum – such as wills, trusts and deeds – and then destroy the rest of the file.
3. Less Clutter
Let’s face it: Space in a law office often comes at a premium. An attorney who has been practicing for many years would never have enough room to keep files. And, off-site storage is expensive, especially climate-controlled storage with the security required to keep client information. This is the main reason to shred legal documents other than security. Shredding legal files allows attorneys to keep their file space organized and less cluttered.
How to Shred Paper Files
Law offices should not just go out and purchase a shredder. Instead, use a professional shredding service to shred confidential files so that there is no way to recreate documents. Carolina Shred provides locked shred boxes to store files to be shredded. Once they are full we bring our mobile shredding truck to your location. You are able to watch as the file boxes are transferred to the truck and then dumped into our crosscut shredder. Your documents are mixed with documents from other businesses and then bundled into bales and forwarded to a recycling plant.
With the advent of digital files, old hard drives also contain confidential information. We also shred hard drives and other digital storage media. When we have completed shredding your paper files and digital drives, you will get a certificate of destruction to prove that your media was destroyed.
Contact Carolina Shred today to discuss setting up a shredding schedule, lockboxes and more.