Published on July 5, 2018
Knowing how long to keep files can be a little difficult.
On the one hand you don't want to keep everything forever, on the other hand certain files have to be kept for a minimum period of time, either for security reasons or in some cases as required by law. This applies in particular to medical and legal documents.
How long should you keep files? What is the best way to check files to be shredded and what internal equipment is required to safely dispose of files?
How long should you keep files?
Your company should already have a retention and destruction policy in place. If not, it should be implemented as soon as possible. Here are some guidelines. Note that the Law Society of British Colombia has no set guidelines. If you want to set your own retention policy, consider the following:
In many situations, the recommended minimum retention period is six years. However, there will be times when documents should be kept longer, even permanently. For example, a 10-year commercial mortgage is not advised to shred files after 6 years because problems can arise for a period of four years.
You can find some guidelines for retention periods HERE.
Documents from closed client files should be kept as there is a possibility of taking action against lawyers. The limitation period can be between 2 years due to negligence and no limitation due to misconduct or criminal behavior.
The Income Tax Act requires records and accounts to be kept for a period of six years. However, the law stipulates that records can be stored electronically provided that they are “electronically readable”.
Checking files to be destroyed
There may be cases where it is worth keeping files that can be securely destroyed. For example, there may be files that help maintain an efficient practice. Important precedents and legal documents may be kept in closed files and may prove useful in the future. These documents can be kept at your discretion, with customer information being deleted or hidden for security reasons.
If files are destined for destruction, the question remains how to deal with them. Some potential problems that may arise at this point are potential security holes if not properly destroyed, the labor involved in performing the task, and the potential risk of injury to employees using the shredders. In most cases, it is more logical and economical to use a document shredding service that can either shred the documents on site or transport them safely to shred them in an industrial shredder.
Files can also be destroyed if they have been saved electronically.
Electronic document storage is much more economical than physical storage. However, you must ensure that all relevant paper documents have been scanned and saved correctly before you close the file. As with paper documents, these documents must be managed in a manner that ensures customer confidentiality.
As with physical files, electronically stored documents must remain easily accessible.
Keeping records of destroyed files with the customer's name and address, file number, and a brief listing of all relevant information is a good idea and can be easily processed electronically.
Disposing of your files doesn't have to be difficult as long as you have a clear retention and destruction policy. When it's time to shred your documents, it's a logical decision to use a trustworthy shredding service like BC Records. BC Records offers the secure and cost-effective destruction of your confidential documents, be it on site or after collection.