Going Paperless – The Legal Stuff

Have you ever considered going truly “PAPERLESS”?  If you do, did you plan on telling your clients?  And what do you do with all their STUFF? The answer may lie in your client engagement letter.  So long as you disclose to your client what you are going to do with the documents in his/her case, and so long as you keep originals of those documents you are legally and ethically required to keep, you should be in a position to go paperless without increasing your risk of malpractice.  Wells Anderson and I have developed some model language that you can you in your engagement letter.  We give it with the caveat that while we are lawyers, we are likely not admitted to practice in your jurisdiction, and second we are not offering this language as legal advice.  We are asking you to consider this language and review it in light of your firm’s document retention procedures and your state’s legal and ethical requirements regarding document retention.

Here is the proposed language that could be used in connection with a policy to SCAN all incoming documents, and PDF all outgoing documents.  These documents could be profiled in Time Matters, and placed in folders organized by Matter.  This policy also envisions that you would have an off-site backup procedure in place whereby electronic document would be stored on a server with RAID-5 or RAID-2, and there would be a separate daily OFF-SITE backup maintained.

Files and Records—All of your original Client materials that you provide to us will be returned to you, or you will have an opportunity to retrieve them, immediately upon the conclusion of the representation. If you do not retrieve your original client materials within 60 days after we send you a notice that they are available, they may be destroyed without further notice to you. Any notification sent to you will be sent to the last current address we have on file for you.

You may obtain a copy of your file, not including the attorneys? and legal assistants? personal notes and memoranda, at a charge of ___ cents per page.

The Firm may maintain the Client’s file electronically by scanning documents and shredding the hard copies of some documents. Scanned documents are electronically and securely stored in at least two separate physical locations. Documents retained as hard copies until the conslusion of the representation include (1) original Client materials, and (2) any other documents that we determine should be kept as hard copies for legal reasons or because of their special nature. After the conclusion of the representation, all documents and materials that are not retrieved in accordance with the above terms may be destroyed.

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