Practice Tools

File Retention and Management - Practice Resource Center


Updating and cleaning out estate plan files
By John Ahern, Trusts & Estates, June 2012
Tips to provide you with a starting point when you need to "clean house."

Who does the file belong to?
By Donald E. Weihl, Law Office Management and Economics, December 2010
There are many questions arising from clients who believe that the file an attorney creates for an engagement on behalf of the client is the property of the client.

Retention of E-Mail: Why Bother?
By Michael D, Gifford, Law Office Economics, February 2009
Does your firm need a policy for managing retention and preservation of e-mail? YES; even the smallest organizations are wise to invest the time and effort to craft such a policy.

Cover Me: Documentation Is More than CYA
By Karen J. Dilibert, Illinois Bar Journal, June 2008
Thoughtful documentation can promote good lawyer-client communication, keep clients from making horrible decisions, and work other magic.

Filing System Basics for Solo and Small-Firm Lawyers
By Carl R. Draper, Illinois Bar Journal, February 2006
Is your filing system - paper and electronic - up to snuff?

 Here are pointers to help you create a modern, efficient system for storing, retrieving, and retaining files.

Law Firm Document Retention Policies
By Sharon D. Nelson and John W. Simek, The Corporate Lawyer, June 2004
Lawyers and their clients tend to forget that saving unnecessary documents, paper or electronic, can constitute a significant danger.

How Long Must Illinois Lawyers Retain Case Files?
By Anton F. Mikel, Illinois Bar Journal, February 2004
A look at Illinois' murky law dealing with who owns the contents of a client's files and how long attorneys have to preserve them.

When Can You Retain Client Files for Failure to Pay Fees?
By Patrick Sean Ginty, Illinois Bar Journal, February 2004
While retaining liens can be effective, you should understand their scope and effect before you use them.

File Retention: Preventing Brownfields in Your Storage Room
By Karen J. Dilibert, Illinois Bar Journal, December 2002
How can you avoid a massive, Superfund-style client-file cleanup down the road? Here are some pointers.

Spring Cleaning -- A Dozen Pointers for Purging Files
By Scott Mittman, ISBA YLDNews, March 1999
The ABA and others who issue ethical rules tell you that you don't have a general duty to keep all files forever and ever.

Should You Store Your Client's Will?
By Helen W. Gunnarsson, Illinois Bar Journal, October 2006
More and more lawyers say it's a bad idea. But what to do instead? And what about those fileboxes full of wills you inherited from your predecessor? Is a statutorily created central will repository the answer?

ISBA Advisory Opinions on Professional Conduct

  • 01-02, 94-14 Disposal of case files
  • 01-01, 94-13 Access to lawyer files
  • 95-02 Lawyer’s access to closed files at former firm

Other Resources

Have a suggestion for a practice resource? Please email Mark Mathewson.

These resources are presented as educational resources for for ISBA members. They should not be relied upon as a substitute for individual legal research, and the ISBA does not warrant the accuracy of the information that appears in them.