More than any other business, you’d expect law firms to understand the importance of clear policies and procedures. On a daily basis, firm employees experience the importance of following the letter of the law.
It’s surprising then, how many firms don’t have a clear and detailed in-house document retention policy. Most firms do have some blanket policy denoting how long documents must be kept. However, such policies often miss a critical component: how documents are stored. You can have thousands of stored documents, but it doesn’t matter if you can’t view or produce the one you need.
Does your law firm still have floppy disks stored in file cabinets? If you do, and need to access a time-sensitive document such as a will, do you still have the hardware to read the disk? When’s the last time you used the disk reader? Is it still operable? For a time-sensitive document, this can mean the same as not having it all, opening the firm up to potential compliance violations and associated penalties. This problem isn’t just relegated to outdated hardware; it can happen with software as well.
There are literally thousands and thousands of different forms of software that have been created over the last 50 years of computing – the vast majority of which are now obsolete. If your records are stored in files that can only be opened with this software, you’re out of luck. Even paper copies can be an issue, as old copies may be damaged over time – rendering them illegible!
Digital Dark Age
James Billington, the father of the internet, calls the loss of information due to obsolete software or hardware the “Digital Dark Age.” And it affects corporations of all sizes and certainly not just legal firms.
Picture your attorneys losing an important case, because they weren’t aware of or couldn’t access a document. Not a pretty picture. At Ricoh, we have seen this repeatedly – so we’ve developed three tips to guard you against falling into the Digital Dark Age:
- Scan all documents and digitally store them in multiple document formats.
- Make sure all of your documents are available remotely and easily accessible.
- Ensure your document retention policy includes an annual review to determine whether storage procedures need to be updated.
It’s never too late for your law firm to be part of the modern era. Reach out to Ricoh today to see what solutions we can put in place for you!
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