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Appendix 5 - Suggested Steps for Closing, Retaining and Destroying Files

Determine whether you may close the file

The following are some factors that you may wish to consider in determining whether a file has been completed and should be closed.

  • Have you completed all work that you were retained to complete?
  • Have you reported to the client?
  • Have you forwarded an account to the client?
  • Has the account been paid or has the firm written off any balance owing on the final account?
  • Have all undertakings been satisfied and all trust conditions been honoured?
  • Have you dealt with any balance in the trust account?

Strip the File

  • Have you removed unnecessary duplicate copies?
  • Have you removed or copied material for precedent or future use?
  • If so, have you stripped the precedent material of all personal information within the meaning of PIPEDA?
  • Have you returned documents belonging to the client or third parties?
  • Have you determined copies of which documents you will retain?

Communicate with the Client

  • Have you advised the client that the file is being closed and will be destroyed after a certain date? This advice may be contained in the retainer agreement.

Establish a Destruction Date

  • Have you established a file destruction date?
  • Have you established a file review date to review the file prior to destruction or alternatively, do you have a system in place to ensure that the file destruction date is postponed where there are changes in circumstances during the file retention period that necessitate a postponement of the date?
  • Have you entered these date(s) into your tickler system?

Classify File as Closed

  • Have you classified the file as closed?
  • Have you entered this data into your office system?

Determine the Method of Storage

Have you determined the method(s) of storage?

  • Paper
  • Electronic

If documents are going to be stored electronically, consider:

  • Do you have a legal or ethical obligation to store the file in paper form?
  • Do you have the necessary hardware and software to retrieve these documents during the retention period?
  • Do you have a procedure in place for ensuring that you have the hardware and software to retrieve these documents during the retention period?
  • If the documents are likely to be used as documentary evidence, have you complied with any evidentiary rules governing admissibility of electronic copies?
  • Do you have a backup system for the materials stored electronically?
  • Have you considered whether documents, data or information should be encrypted?

Place the File In Storage

  • Is the storage location secure?
  • Have you ensured that you can meet confidentiality obligations?
  • Do you have adequate insurance to cover loss or damage?

Review the File Prior Destruction

  • Have you reviewed the file before destruction to determine if the destruction date should be changed?

Destruction of the File

  • Have you ensured that the file will be destroyed in a way that will maintain lawyer/client confidentiality?

Establish a Record of Destruction or Disposition

  • Have you established a record of the destruction in accordance with your retention policy?
Terms or Concepts Explained