Records Retention Schedule
This Records Management Policy (“Policy”) is intended to assist the Firm’s legal and non-legal staff in making informed decisions concerning the handling, care and retention of Client and Firm Records. This Policy applies to records created, received or maintained by the Firm in any of its offices during the course of handling client matters or Firm business.
Records include the following forms of documentation: hard copy document or file, graphic or digital image, audio or video recording, handwritten note, e-mail, or information contained in computer databases in the electronic filing systems. Documentation as defined herein that is subject to the Policy can be generally divided into Client and Firm Records.
Client Records correspond to each engagement or representation undertaken by an attorney or the Firm. They consist of documents generated by or exchanged between attorney and client to facilitate the legal services being rendered and documents generated as a result of research or discovery on the client’s behalf. They can be broken down in Case Matter Records and Work Product Records.
Case Matter Records relate to a specific matter or engagement. These include, but are not limited to, records or documents received from a client for attorney review and reference, other client property delivered to an attorney in the course of the representation, engagement letters and/or fee agreements for specific matters and records of communications between attorney and client relating to the engagement, such as written and e-mail correspondence and billing records. They may also include summaries of research requested by a client.
Work Product Records are records and documents produced by an attorney or Firm relating to a client or engagement intended only for internal firm reference. Examples include internal correspondence, drafts or documents created for review or use within the Firm, attorney notes reflecting internal opinions of the client or the client’s matter, and summaries of general research not undertaken for a specific client.
Firm Records consist of all internal documents and data generated by Firm personnel to manage the Firm’s business and which are unrelated to any specific client or matter, including but not limited to, intra- Firm e-mail, notices, and memoranda; conflicts and case opening records; employee compensation, payroll, and time-keeping records; accounting and billing records (including client credit card information); marketing and informational materials and communications; policies and procedures; and non-matter related working files of the Firm’s professionals and staff.
Matter and Firm records are confidential and available only to Firm personnel who have a legitimate business reason to have access. The Firm’s obligation to protect client information continues even after a matter has been closed. This obligation may also extend to the protection of confidential information received from third parties.
All files are stored in offices, work stations and cabinets which are located in firm controlled space. After office hours, offices are secured with alarm systems. Visitors can only gain access through the main entrance to any of the firm’s offices and are escorted at all times when not in areas accessible to the public.
E-Mail, including attachments, and other electronic records whose contents have ongoing substantive value to a client matter, should be retained in hard copy or electronically, as part of the appropriate Matter or Client File.
The Firm may store client correspondence and documents in electronic format without maintaining a hard copy but must retain these electronic records in a way that permits the Firm and client to access them in the future, subject to the record retention and destruction protocol contained herein.
Routine computer and network system backups must be created daily for business resumption purposes only and should not be viewed as a long-term electronic archive.
Client Credit Card Information
Clients have the option of paying bills and retainers via credit card. Credit card payments can be made in the following ways:
- Chip Card Reader (Reception Desk)
- Payment Portal on the firm’s website
- Mail Chip Card Reader
If a client comes to pay a bill in person in Springfield, his/her credit card will be swiped using the chip credit card terminal at the Reception Desk. An authorization will be signed and a receipt provided to the client. The signed slip will be delivered to Accounting to process. Retainers are not processed through the chip credit card terminal. A hand-written authorization form is completed and sent to Accounting to be held until the matter is opened, at which time the retainer will be posted to the account in Prolaw.
Calls regarding credit card payments are transferred directly to Accounting. The Accounting staff will take the call and transfer this information onto an authorization form, which is then stapled to a bill.
The firm utilizes a secure third party processing site for on-line credit card payments. When a payment is entered in the Payment Portal of the firm’s website, Accounting receives an email from the merchant for processing, which contains a link to the receipt. Accounting will print out the receipt and enter the payment into the accounting system.
Completed authorization forms are stapled to the appropriate bill and prepared for processing. To process the payment, the accounting staff will log into the secured website of the credit card processor and enter the payment information. If approved, a receipt is printed and entered into the accounting software using the approval code provided. If rejected, a receipt is printed and the client contacted. The next business day, the accounting staff will log into the secured website of the credit card processor and the batch of the prior business day will be reconciled with the report from the accounting software.
Authorization forms that are completed following a telephone call are stored in a locked drawer in Accounting until it can be processed. Authorization forms for retainers received at the Reception Desk will be locked in a drawer until retrieved by the Accounting Department.
Following processing, authorization forms are stored in a locked cabinet in the Accounting Department until such time as the dispute period has expired, after which the vouchers are shredded. Dispute periods could extend up to 180 days. The Accounting Manager will review all retained authorization forms on a quarterly basis to ensure there are none that have been retained past the dispute deadline.
The Record Retention Schedule (incorporated herein) defines the time at which a Matter File is considered closed, which commences the running of the retention period. For any matter not specifically defined in the schedule, the retention period begins the latter of the date of the conclusion of the representation or the date of any final distribution.
A file may be closed when:
- all fees and costs have been billed;
- there is a final distribution and accounting as to all trust balances relating to the matter;
- the file has been examined to identify and return all client property; and
- the purpose of the original retention is satisfied; or
- client requests that the file be closed.
Retention Schedules and Exceptions
Proper management of records includes the ultimate disposal or destruction of all closed records after any legal, regulatory or ethical requirements have been met. The period of time the Firm will retain records, absent a written agreement between the Firm and the client, is provided in the Firm’s Record Retention Schedule (incorporated herein). When a file is closed, the projected destruction date will be noted in Prolaw. Should a client or a responsible firm attorney specifically extend the firm’s normal destruction date, this date will also be noted in Prolaw, accompanied by a corresponding explanation as to the reason for the tolling of the destruction date. In addition, if the destruction date has been extended, a prominent note will be placed on the physical file noting the original destruction date and the revised destruction date, if established. If no new date has been set, this note will specify “until approved by the client or responsible attorney.”
Situations may arise that require preserving closed records past the destruction dates set forth in the Retention Schedule. Any such exceptions must be approved in writing by the Responsible Attorney. This approval will supersede any contrary provision of this Policy.
Disposition of Records
Due to space considerations, some of the Firm’s client and administrative files are stored off-site in secure record storage facilities. The files are housed in secure facilities and transported using bonded and insured employees in monitored and secured vehicles. All files removed to the storage facility or returned to the Firm are transferred pursuant to chain of custody documentation, requiring signatures for all files transferred out of or into the Firm’s custody. These files may only be requested and accessed by authorized Firm employees for legitimate business purposes of the Firm. Any third party engaged to perform record storage must provide the Firm with a Confidentiality/Non Disclosure Agreement and agree to abide by the Firm’s standards for records storage and destruction. A detailed listing of all archived records will be maintained by the Firm in perpetuity. It is against firm policy for any client files to be stored outside of the United States or its territories.
Support Services will provide the appropriate attorney(s) with a report listing all scheduled file destructions 30 days in advance of the scheduled destruction date. Support Services will also provide one additional reminder notification to the appropriate attorney(s) 10 days prior to the scheduled destruction of such matter files. The attorney must notify Support Services if the retention period for any file(s) should be extended prior to the scheduled destruction date. This extension must be in writing and include the length and reason for the extension and be approved by the Responsible Attorney. Absent any affirmative directions from the attorney requesting the extension or tolling of the posted destruction date of a particular file, the file will be destroyed as per the retention schedule.
Only when specifically required by a client, that client will be notified of any planned destruction of documents or records and no destruction will take place until approved by that client. Following destruction, the client will be notified within 5 business days after said destruction.
The attorney reviewing a file scheduled for destruction shall exercise professional judgment in deciding if a particular file is suitable for destruction, erring on the side of caution if there is any reason why the file may be needed in the future. Those reasons may include, but are not limited to the following:
- Client directive
- The statute of limitations for malpractice claims has been tolled or has not yet run
- The file involved a troublesome client or outcome
- The file involved an area of law or cause of action where, either for substantive reasons or client relations reasons, file information may be needed in the future.
- The Firm or client is involved in litigation or a governmental investigation.
When documents containing personally identifiable information, closed client and firm records (including electronic), and firm equipment potentially holding personally identifiable information are destroyed in accordance with this Policy and Retention Schedule, precautions are taken to insure that confidential client or Firm information is not inadvertently compromised. Destruction is completed using processes that provide assurances that the information cannot be recovered through reasonable means.
- Hard copy documents are destroyed pursuant to standards established by the National Association of Information Destruction.
- PC’s, laptop and retired MFD/copier hard drives will be rendered unusable by having holes drilled in them and then having them physically destroyed by a third party vendor in such a manner as to render said drive unusable and any and all data unrecoverable.
Any third party engaged to perform records destruction activities must provide the Firm with a
Confidentiality/Non Disclosure Agreement and agree to abide by the Firm’s standards for records storage and destruction. Following destruction of any record, the Firm is provided with a written Certificate of Destruction, which includes the name of record and date, location and method of destruction.
Firm will maintain records documenting the final disposition of all records, including Certificates of Destruction, relevant engagement letter and client approvals (or the absence of a response to the Firm’s e-mail concerning file destruction authorization), which records will be retained by the Firm in perpetuity.
Removing Files from the Firm
Third Party Requests. From time to time situations arise that call for the release of Matter Files to parties outside of the Firm. Any person who receives a subpoena, request or other demand for Firm or client files, or who becomes aware that such a request is likely to come, or that a claim concerning a matter in which the Firm was involved has been filed or is imminent, should immediately contact the Responsible Attorney. Once the Firm is on notice that a request has been made or is likely to be made, the Firm must use its best efforts to suspend any destruction of relevant records. Any such occurrence that will create an exception to the Firm’s Record Destruction Policy must be approved by the Responsible Attorney.
NOTE: Any documentation subsequently released pursuant to any subpoena or court order will be subject to the requirements of the Firm’s Redaction Policy (incorporated in the WISP).
Client Requests. From time to time, a client may request that a particular Matter File be transferred to new counsel. Any such request must be approved by the client in writing, identify the specific file material to be transferred and the name of the new counsel to whom the file is to be transferred, and must be approved by the Responsible Attorney. Prior to any file transfer, the Matter File will be reviewed and any Firm proprietary or administrative material removed. The material removed should include but not be limited to billing, conflicts and file opening information and documentation, internal memoranda and opinions, attorney/client privileged work product, and any other documentation that is not material to the Firm’s original representation of the client as to that particular matter.
Departing Attorneys and Staff. A departing attorney may not remove any Firm File without a written approval from the client to transfer the Matter File to that departing attorney or directly to the client and approval of the Managing Partner.
Records Retention Schedule
Subject to specific client directives and record destruction limitations and legal requirements, which may be in effect from time to time, the following schedule is a comprehensive list of the types of records created and maintained by the Firm, the time at which the file is considered closed, and governs the period of time (years) for which the Firm’s records are to be retained after the file is closed. This schedule applies to records stored on-site or off-site and applies to all methods of storage (hard copy or electronic). (The destruction dates as set forth below shall apply to all client records unless expressly extended by the client or otherwise required by law, in which case the longer destruction date will control.)
|Client files||Date of Close||Destruction Date|
|General Matters||Discharge by client, withdrawal from representation by the Firm, completion of representation||6 years|
|Arbitration||Case Close Date||6 years|
|Leases||Expiration of Lease||10 years|
|Bankruptcy||Case Close Date||6 years|
|Corporate Organization Documents (Minute Books)||Indefinite|
|Commercial Loan Transactions||Closing Date||10 years|
|Plaintiff Cases (including PI)
Plaintiff Cases (including PI) (minor plaintiff)
|Case Close/Settlement Date
Latter of the Close/Settlement Date or the Date minor reached age of majority
Medical/Legal Malpractice (minor plaintiff)
|Case Close/Settlement Date
Latter of the Close/Settlement Date or the Date minor reached age of majority
|Probate||Close/Settlement Date||6 years|
|Medicaid||Case Close/Date of Death||6 years from the date the matter closed or the date of death, whichever is later.|
|Appointment||6 years from date of death, final account and/or suggestion of death or date firm is terminated, whichever is later.|
Conservatorships (for minor)
|Latter of Date of Appointment or Date minor reaches age of majority||6 years.|
|Estate Tax Returns||Indefinite|
|Income Tax Returns||Date of Filing||20 years|
|Divorce/Family Relations||Case closed||6 years|
|Guardian Ad Litem for minor||Latter of Date of Appointment or Date minor reaches age of majority||6 years|
|Attorney for minor||Latter of Date of Appointment or Date minor reaches age of majority||6 years|
|Employment (litigation)||Case Close/Settlement Date or file closed (whichever is longer)||6 years|
|Termination of contract or file
closed (whichever is longer)
|Contracts||File closed||6 years|
|Residential Real Estate Sales||Closing Date||10 years|
|Residential Real Estate Purchases||Closing Date||10 years|
|Commercial Real Estate Sales||Closing Date||10 years|
|Commercial Real Estate Purchases||Indefinite|
Record Destruction Logs
|Security Breach Incident Logs||Indefinite|
|Employee Records (including time cards)||3 years after last date of
|FMLA Documentation||3 years after last date of employment|
|Separation or Settlement Agreements||Indefinite|
|Retirement and Pension Plan Documents||Indefinite|
|Employee Benefit Plan Master Documents||Indefinite|
|Summary Plan Descriptions||Indefinite|
|ERISA Filings||6 years after the filing date|
|Employment Tax Information||6 years from the date taxes were due or the date the taxes were paid (whichever is later)|
|Attendance Records||3 years after last day of employment|
|Payroll Records||3 years|
|Accident reports and worker’s comp records||10 years after accident|
|COBRA Notices||6 years after notice given or from the last date of employment (whichever is later)|
|I-9 Forms||3 years from date of hire or 1 year after last date of employment, whichever is later|
|Annual Reports (SOS)||Indefinite|
|Articles of Incorporation||Indefinite|
|Fixed Asset Records||Indefinite|
|Correspondence (General)||3 years|
|Legal, Insurance and Safety Records|
|Insurance Policies and related attachments||10 years after expiration of policy|
|Leases||10 years after expiration or termination|
|OSHA Documents||10 years|
|General Contracts||10 years after expiration or termination|
|Accounting and Corporate Tax Records|
|Annual audits and financial statements||7 years|
|Depreciation schedules||7 years|
|General Ledgers||7 years|
|IRS 990 tax returns||7 years|
|Business expense records||7 years|
|IRS 1099’s||7 years|
|Journal Entries||7 years|
|Check registers||7 years|
|Bank deposit slips||7 years|
|Bank statements and reconciliations||7 years|
|Electronic funds transfer documents||7 years|
|Credit Card Authorization Forms||90 days after original authorized payment is processed|
|Payroll and Employment Tax Records|
|Payroll registers||7 years|
|State unemployment tax returns||7 years|
|Earnings records||7 years|
|Garnishment records||7 years|
|Payroll tax returns||7 years|
|W-2 statements||7 years|