Law firms have always been plagued by the “knowledge drain” that happens when experienced employees retire or leave the company, taking their acquired information and established relationships when they leave. Firms must find a way to capture and retain institutional knowledge and make critical knowledge accessible if they want to ensure business continuity, provide quality legal services, and maintain a competitive edge.
Many malpractice claims arise from a client’s or third party’s allegation about what occurred, or didn’t occur, during the representation. While it may not seem necessary to document things that did not occur, or in situations involving third parties rather than just your client, proper documentation of these events can help protect you from certain malpractice traps.
As more lawyers store their electronic files in the cloud through vendors like Dropbox, Google Drive, or Box, or through practice management software like MyCase, RocketMatter, or Clio, they will eventually deal with the issue of what will happen to those files when they close their practice.
In my previous blog post, I discussed the risks and reasons lawyers over-save data. This post is about how lawyers can avoid hoarding data. Don’t start indiscriminately deleting or shredding files to avoid hoarding data. The process must be thoughtful and deliberate.
It may come as no surprise that law firms routinely store huge amounts of client and administrative data in both electronic and paper format. Although lawyers are legally and ethically required to retain certain kinds of data, some data is retained unnecessarily. When you store data you aren’t required to keep or don’t need, it’s called data hoarding.