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Rob, primarily a criminal defence lawyer, has been very frustrated ever since he started taking on personal injury clients. To the extent he has expanded his practice, he has been a plaintiff’s personal injury lawyer. He can’t believe the amount of paperwork involved, nor the amount of money he has going in and out of his trust and general accounts for these clients.
Rob has decided to go back to practicing only criminal law and so wants to store all his civil litigation files away from his office. All his civil files have either gone to final judgment or settlement, and a couple of them ended badly with small settlements. The straw that finally broke the camel’s back was the case in which he represented a nurse who had been severely injured by a crazy young accountant who had been speeding on his way to catch the televised proceedings of the Federal Budget. Rob was very disappointed that the settlement in that case, which he’d just reached the week before, was so low. He made a mental note to himself to make sure that he had paid out all the money he held for the nurse.
As Rob was dumping his civil litigation files onto his assistant’s desk, he was very annoyed to see how many of them still seemed to have the stubs of cheques and various invoices stapled to the inside of the file folders, and sometimes paper-clipped to the outside of the files. He wrote the following note to his assistant:
“Polly—you need to clean up these files. For each file, organize all the financial records, including trust account ledgers, into a subfile. Make sure there are no uncashed cheques in any of the files. Once you’ve got each file organized with its own subfile for the financial records that relate to it, you can put all of the files into Blue Mountain Storage and tell them to hang on to them for six years.”
Rob felt a huge sense of relief when he went home that night having made the decision to concentrate on criminal law only.
What other factors should Rob have considered when he made the decision to close these files and order them destroyed in six years?
Choose one answer.
Julie recently set up her own practice as a solicitor. She came in one weekend to clean up her office and was shocked to find out how much paper she had accumulated in her first year of solo practice. She decided she needed to make a better system for off-site file storage and destruction. To date she simply kept all the files she worked on open in her office as active files.
She began by categorizing all the files she thought could be closed into two groups: real estate and wills. These are her only two substantial areas of practice. Within the real estate files she has a full spectrum of activity from simple residential conveyances to complicated real estate development files. She decides that the wills files are easy as all of them must be kept forever; in some cases she had no real way of knowing how old her client was and besides, who can predict how long some people might live these days? She put all the wills files into one stack with a note for her assistant: “Create a list of these files, then send to Moe’s storage. Make sure storage people know these can never be destroyed.”
The real estate files took her longer as she had to think about the nature of each file separately. The first file she picked up was a small shopping centre conveyance in which she had acted for the purchaser/landlord. She recalled she had drafted a standard form lease agreement for her client to use as landlord. The shopping centre leased up quickly. Julie had negotiated some very long-term leases with some of the tenants, which had made her client quite happy. Julie looked to see that the purchase closing date had been in June of that year, shoved all the leases into a brown sub-file and put a note on the main file to say that the whole file could be destroyed in June + 10 years.
After that Julie felt tired and decided rather than staying longer and possibly making some mistakes, she should go home and start fresh the next day.
What else should Julie have considered to ensure that the files she had made decisions on were retained for a minimum safe retention period?
Choose one answer.