File Retention & Destruction 

 In 2022-23, NSBS substantially revised our guidance on file retention and destruction. We now provide guidance with numbers, making it easier for practitioners to determine how long to keep files. A revised practice standard (currently in the works) recognises that lawyers must pay attention to privacy law. 

We strongly recommend that every firm adopt and follow a file retention & destruction policy. That is, all of your decisions about retention and destruction should be made by the policy. Do not make exceptions by file or client; exceptions should only be broad, e.g. for an area of law or clients who are minors. 

There are many benefits to practising ‘file hygiene,’ where you only keep what you need and only for as long as you need it. It helps ensure you comply with privacy law and our Code of Professional Conduct. It reduces your costs of storage and your risks. It greatly simplifies decisions about retention and decisions about destruction, reducing the latter to a simple process staff can carry out once a date is reached. Finally, it prevents a mass of old files from being an obstacle when you need to move, find a successor, or retire. 

Resources 

Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society, “NSBS Template File Retention & Destruction Policy” (2023). nsbs.org (word document). Firms can adapt or modify this template. 

Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society, “NSBS Legal Services Support- Foundation Document File Checklist” (2022). nsbs.org. 

Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society, “NSBS Legal Services Support- File Closing Checklist” (n.d.). nsbs.org. 

Please reach out to us should you require assistance or have feedback to provide. We help many firms find the easiest way to establish and implement a policy. Email us at [email protected].