The Risk Tip had a nice holiday, wishes everyone a very Happy New Year, and hopes you’ve all had your black-eyed peas for good luck (referring here to the legume; not the musical-marketing juggernaut). Now, how about your New Year’s resolutions? Consider making some relating to your filing practices, particularly at the conclusion of a matter:
Lose Weight: When closing out a file, think about what you should send to storage. Don’t just dump everything into a box. Are your notes important to maintaining a record of the representation, or are they now superfluous? There is a cost for every box sent to storage, every box retrieved, every box reused, etc. Perhaps your Records Department can assist in having CDs created, rather than sending paper copies; weeding duplicates; as well as with other appropriate cost-savings strategies.
Get Fit: Have you included the documents important to you (engagement letters, end-of-matter letters) and your client (the final contract; the signed settlement agreement)? Have you appropriately maintained or returned client property (securities, promissory notes, tax returns)? And, if you’ve returned them, did you (a) maintain a copy of the receipt; and (b) send the transmittal letter to Records? If you finalized the terms and signatures via email exchanges, did you ever make a single record of the final deal? If the important things exist only in your email or in bits and pieces in many sources, ensure there’s an appropriate print-out in the hard copy file.
Stop Smoking: Smoking guns, that is. Have you included the paper records that might be needed one day to explain other documents in the file? Was there a conflict waiver? A memo to file memorializing an important communication? An email or memo containing that critical advice to the client about going forward with something despite the risk you discussed?
Once materials get to your Records Department, do they have in place practices to ensure that materialsare stored, transferred, or destroyed as appropriate. With that, we can all accomplish another common resolution: Drink Less.