On a daily basis, law firm employees experience the importance of following the letter of the law—the need for clear policies and procedures is integral to a firm’s business.
It’s surprising then, how many firms don’t have a clear and detailed in-house document retention policy. Most firms have a blanket policy denoting how long documents must be kept, however such policies often miss a critical component – how documents are stored or which formats documents must be maintained in.
What’s the point if you have thousands of stored documents but you can’t view or produce the one you need? Here are a few document mediums that will hinder your business’s ability to access documents and information.
Old storage mediums
Old storage mediums such as microfiche/microfilm, floppy disk, CDs, VHS tapes, etc. can keep your firm from accessing important information for a case. If your firm needs to access a time-sensitive document such as a will, do you still have the means to read the hardware? When was the last time you used this hardware? Is it still operable? For a time-sensitive document, this can mean the same as not having it all which opens the firm up to potential compliance violations and associated penalties.
Outdated software can also affect the information your firm keeps. There are 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 If your records are stored in files that can only be opened with outdated software, you’re out of luck.
Holding on to paper documents in hundreds of filing cabinets does not mean that all the documents will remain well preserved. They can be easily damaged by moisture, debris and other storage/environmental factors that make the writing illegible. Holding onto paper files also doesn’t make the information accessible to others, since the only copy can be accessed by one person at a time. If that paper document is lost, all the information is lost. Digitizing paper-based information and placing it into a digital repository would preserve signatures and printed information, allowing the data to be accessible to multiple firm personnel working on a case.
Getting out of the ‘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 organizations of all sizes and certainly not just legal firms.
Picture your lawyers losing an important case because they weren’t aware of or couldn’t access a document. Not a pretty picture. To help firms work seamlessly and more efficiently in today’s digital-forward world, here are three tips to guide you on your way.
– Make documents accessible – ensure your documents are available remotely and available to the appropriate personnel or even for audits by compliance regulators.
– Establish document retention process, schedule and policies – make sure your document retention policies for key records such as contracts and customer data include how they are indexed, kept, shared, stored, and disposed of according to those organizations that set the compliance standards. Disposing records too early could mean fines for noncompliance, disposing of them too late and may incur legal consequences. Also, set aside time for an annual review to determine whether storage procedures and capabilities need to be updated.
Enable your teams to work smarter and more effectively with solutions that securely digitize your paper-based documents and transform outdated processes into efficient digital processes. Discover how Ricoh can help convert your valuable information so that it is available when, how, and where you need it. Find out more here.
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