File Retention and Management - Practice Resource Center


File Retention

  • Steven J. Best
    Illinois Bar Journal, August 2017

    Ten tips to help you transition to a paperless office.

  • Kevin J. Stine
    The Bottom Line, June 2017

    In March 2017 the ISBA issued Advisory Professional Conduct Advisory Opinion 17-02 to help attorneys find a solution for this common question.

  • Ed Finkel
    Illinois Bar Journal, November 2016

    Ethics rules and opinions provide a (mostly) clear picture of file retention best practices if you read them carefully. But cheap electronic storage is making discarding files a thing of the past.

  • Illinois Bar Journal, November 2015

    In Illinois, clients own briefs and other "end products" of the matter, but lawyers control early drafts and notes.

  • Joseph Harvath
    The Bottom Line, September 2015

    The question of whether a client is entitled to receive his or her file relating to the representation by an attorney is a fact specific question, depending on the types of documents sought, whether the attorney has a lien on the property, and whether the attorney should exercise the lien.

  • Daniel Kegan
    Intellectual Property, November 2014

    While most lawyers and law firms may not suffer as extremely as hoarders seen on TV, the similarities can sometimes be striking.

  • John Ahern
    Trusts & Estates, June 2012

    Tips to provide you with a starting point when you need to "clean house."

  • Donald E. Weihl
    The Bottom Line, 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.

  • Michael D. Gifford
    The Bottom Line, 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.

  • Karen Erger
    Illinois Bar Journal, June 2008

    Thoughtful domumentation promotes good communication and good decisions.

  • Maryann Bullion
    Administrative Law, April 2008

    Have you ever deleted an e-mail or a computer file and thought nothing of it? Well, if one of your local government clients deletes an e-mail or throws away a file that contains information that should be considered a public record, they could be charged with a Class 4 felony.

  • Mary A. Corrigan
    The Bottom Line, April 2008

    Although 2008 is already underway, it is not too late to implement some resolutions for improvement of your law practice.

  • Richard G. Flood
    Jenette M. Schwemler
    Administrative Law, July 2007

    While many have leapt to the conclusion that the Local Records Act requires preservation of anything and everything dealing with public business that happens to enter or leave a municipally owned computer, reading the statute three times, as Supreme Court Justice John Roberts suggests, reveals a quite different intent.

  • Helen W. Gunnarsson
    Illinois Bar Journal, October 2006

    More and more lawyers say it's a bad idea. But what do you do instead? Is a central will repository the answer?

  • Sharon D. Nelson
    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.

  • The Corporate Lawyer, June 2004

    A sample policy, for your consideration.

  • Anton F. Mikel
    Illinois Bar Journal, February 2004

    A look at Illinois' murkey law dealing with who owns the contents of client files and how long lawyers have to keep them.

  • 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.

  • Carl R. Draper
    The Bottom Line, January 2004

    With the ever-increasing costs of office operations coupled with the explosive growth of documentation in legal matters, maintaining control of information has challenged law firms of all sizes. Storage of paper alone is a major expense and administrative headache.

  • Karen Dilibert
    Illinois Bar Journal, December 2002

    How can you avoid a massive, Superfund-style client-file cleanup down the road? Here are some pointers.

  • Scott Mittman
    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.

File Management

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.