Destroy Your Client Files Under a Records Retention Program . . . and Protect Their Interests, Too!

by | Nov 26, 2014 | Law and Records Management, Retention Articles and Information

Destroy Your Client Files Under a Records Retention Program . . . and Protect Their Interests, Too!

By Donald S. Skupsky, JD, CRM, FAI, MIT

Summary:

Most attorneys elect to keep their client files forever, believing that this reflects their legal duty to protect client interests. Some believe that client files belong to the clients and can only be destroyed with permission of the clients. Because of doubt or inconvenience, the volume of records maintained by attorneys grows each year and the associated costs escalate. Yet, destroying client files under an appropriate retention policy may be legally permitted, may protect the clients’ interest, and certainly can save the attorneys a lot of money.

Attorneys recognize the benefits of proper management of records. Records must be well organized and accessible. Otherwise, they waste valuable staff time looking for records or, worse, misfile or lose valuable client information.

However, most records lose value over time. Even the most important client records may never be needed or used in the future.

Timely destruction of valueless records offers a low-cost way to reduce the amount of space used for record storage. A records retention program provides a “back door” for your records by eliminating the accumulation of valueless records. It also improves your ability to handle important information. By getting rid of the junk, you reduce the chances of filing errors and speed the retrieval of important information.

Duties Related to Client Files

The Problem with Destroying Client Files

But attorneys often refrain from developing records retention programs or even destroying records under an existing retention program citing several reasons:

  • The process of destroying records is “non-billable time” and administrative overhead.
  • The attorneys are too busy to review the files prior to destruction.
  • The clients may need these record some time in the future.
  • Attorneys believe that the client file belongs to the client and cannot be destroyed without the client’s permission.

This article focuses on the last point. While some of the supporting research is presented, other research has necessarily been omitted for brevity.

The Role of Files and Records in a Client Engagement

A client engages an attorney to pursue the client’s interest in a legal matter. The goal of the engagement is the litigation, settlement, preparation of legal document, obtaining legal advice, etc.

The “client file” is the file used by attorneys to store all the material created by the attorneys and received from the client as part of an engagement with a client. Clearly, the goal of an engagement is NOT to create a client file. The client file is merely a byproduct of the engagement — part of the means used by the attorney to manage the engagement.

The Duty to Create Client Files

The Rules of Professional Conduct and bar association ethical opinions do not address any duties or requirements for maintaining the client files including form of records, content of files and filing methods. These issues are left totally to the professional judgment of the attorney.

The ethical opinions do not require an attorney to maintain client records in the first place. Yet, some opinions then attempt to establish duties and requirements related to the retention and destruction of the client files.

The Duty to Retain Client Files

The L.A. Country Bar Association[1], the American Bar Association[2], the New York State Bar Association[3] and other bar associations have issued ethical opinions related to the retention of client files by attorney. These opinions unanimously support the establishment of a records retention program and the ultimate destruction of client files.

The American Bar Association, for example, states the following:

The Rules of Professional Conduct does not set forth particular rules or guidelines on the subject. This Committee had not previously issued an opinion that deals directly with the subject.

We cannot say that there is a specific time during which a lawyer must preserve all files and beyond which he is free to destroy all files.

Good common sense should provide answers to most questions that arise.

With the foregoing limitations in mind, we suggest the considerations set forth below.

  1. Unless the client consents, a lawyer should not destroy or discard items that clearly or probably belong to the client. Such items include those furnished to the lawyer by or in behalf of the client, the return of which could reasonably be expected by the client, and original documents (especially when not filed or recorded in the public records).
  2. A lawyer should use care not to destroy or discard information that the lawyer knows or should know may still be necessary or useful in the assertion or defense of the client’s position in a matter for which the applicable statutory limitations period has not expired.
  3. A lawyer should use care not to destroy or discard information that the client may need, has not previously been given to the client, and is not otherwise readily available to the client, and which the client may reasonably expect will be preserved by the lawyer.
  4. In determining the length of time for retention of disposition of a file, a lawyer should exercise discretion. The nature and contents of some files may indicate a need for longer retention than do the nature and contents of other files, based upon their obvious relevance and materiality to matters that can be expected to arise.
  5. A lawyer should take special care to preserve, indefinitely, accurate and complete records of the lawyer’s receipt and disbursement of trust funds.
  6. In disposing of a file, a lawyer should protect the confidentiality of the contents.
  7. A lawyer should not destroy or dispose of a file without screening it in order to determine that consideration has been given to the matters discussed above.
  8. A lawyer should preserve, perhaps for an extended time, an index or identification of the files that the lawyer has destroyed or disposed of.

Although the ABA opinion is “informal” and not binding, this opinion and others place severe procedural burdens on the retention program including:

  • The duty to inspect and screen the client files before destruction.
  • The duty to client property prior to destruction.
  • The duty to protect client confidences.
  • The duty to maintain an index of destroyed files.
  • The duty to notify clients prior to destruction.

These duties would create significant additional work to attorneys desiring to destroy old client files. For example, if notice was provided to clients prior to destruction of records, some clients would request the opportunity to review the files. The attorneys would then have to review the files, purge extraneous material, organize the material and perhaps remove some attorney notes and related documents that may not be client property. The costs and burdens of these tasks may appear to outweigh the benefits of even undertaking a retention program for client files in the first place.

This article focuses on how attorneys can understand the various ethical opinions related to records retention in a new light. The goal is not to ignore or violate these opinions, but to show how a retention program can be implemented without the restrictions of these opinions, and, yet, not constitute a violation of the Rules of Professional Responsibility.

Protection of client interests is a paramount ethical duty for attorneys. But, this duty is not compromised by the outright destruction of valueless client files after a reasonably long period of time. While there is always some risk associated with any records retention program, there is no reason to believe that the risk is any greater for attorneys electing a retention procedure that is calculated to protect the client interested, but deviates somewhat from the mainstream of advisory opinions. In fact, research has not uncovered instances when attorneys have been sanctioned for following reasonable records destruction practices.

Who Owns the Client Files?

The Source of the Belief that the Client Files Belong to the Clients

The ABA opinion cited above correctly states that the Rules of Professional Conduct does not address retention of client files. Here’s a sampling of the provisions from the ABA and California opinions that address the issue:

A.B.A. Rule 1.16 supports this position:

(d) Upon termination of representation, a lawyer shall take steps to the extent reasonably practicable to protect a client’s interests, such as . . . surrendering papers and property to which the client is entitled . . . The lawyer may retain papers relating to the client to the extent permitted by other law.

Ca. Rule 3-700(D)(1) requires lawyers whose representation has terminated to:

. . . promptly release to the client, at the request of the client, all the client papers and property. “Client papers and property” include . . . items reasonably necessary to the client’s representation.

The Rules of Professional Responsibility creates a duty upon termination for the attorneys to provide clients with materials from the client file on request. Thus, if the client wants the files, they can request them and the attorney has a duty to turn over the records.

What is the basis for this duty? When the representation terminates[4] before the matter is complete, the client will not have yet reaped the benefits intended by the representation. The fees paid to the attorney went toward the “work in progress.” Since the representation is terminated, the client will need to hire and pay another attorney to complete the matter.

Since the work in progress is the only tangible product available for the fees paid by the client, the Rules of Professional Conduct and ethical opinions establish a duty for the attorney to release to the client the work in progress in the client file. The attorney may also retain a right to the same information, and maintain a copy of the client file, based on ethical duties and general business responsibility.

During the representation, the client receives the products and services resulting from the representation. If not, the client can pursue appropriate channel – e.g., request for work in progress, suit related to professional malpractice, etc.

After the representation is completed, the client files then serve as a remnant of the representation, but is not the representation itself. The material may be useful for subsequent matters, protecting client interests in case the subject of the representation is disputed or for answering questions. Both logically and legally, the client does not have a property right to the client file after the representation – the client already received the products of the representation.

The Ownership of the Attorney Work Product

Some of the later ethics opinions addressed the issue of an attorney placing a lien on the client file or refusing to it turn over to the client until appropriate fees were paid.[5] A key opinion appears in L.A. Op. 330 (1972) where the ethics committee reviewed again the question of releasing files to the client or succeeding attorney and provided additional guidance.

L.A. Op. 330 concludes that the client has a right to make copies of the client file, including the attorney “work product,” but that the client should bear the cost. But, the committee took a different opinion for “documents for which the client has already paid”:

. . . The costs of reproducing the entire attorney’s office file, including so-called “work product,” should be borne by the client, but the former attorney should certainly not profit from such copying. . . .

If the documents being sought by the client are documents for which the client has already paid — excluding fees for the attorney’s professional services — (e.g., deposition transcripts, photocopies of documents obtained from opposing counsel and already paid for by the client, reports by experts which have been billed directly to the client, etc.), the attorney should turn those documents over to the client without further charge.

In the Committee’s opinion, “work product” for which the client may be billed, belongs to the client.

This opinion is significant for three reasons:

  • It infers that the client does not own the client file by stating that the client should pay for copying costs. Clearly, the client does not own the client file as property — the client just has a right to the information.
  • It states that the client does not have to pay the copying costs for the documents for which he has already paid. The opinion then indicates examples of the type of documents for which a client would normally be billed: transcription, copies from opposing counsel, reports from experts, etc. This “work product” consists of documents for which there normally is a separate charge. And, since the client already paid a separate fee for these documents, this “work product . . . belongs to the client.”
  • It clarifies the ownership of the “work product” in the client file. The “work product” for which the client has been charged a separate fee “belongs to the client.” But the “work product” produced by the attorney and billed as “attorney’s professional services” does not belong to the client. The client therefore must pay the copying costs to get a copy of this portion of the file.

The Rules of Professional Responsibility establish the duty of the attorney to properly represent a client’s interest during and after the engagement. The “representation” interest is what some ethical opinions may have misconstrued as a client property right in the client file. The Rules do not stand for a position that the client files belongs to the client – just that the client has a right to access documents in the client file as part of representation.

L.A. Op. 330 is one of the most significant opinions in determining whether attorneys may destroy client files under a records retention program and what procedures should be included in the program.[6] The significance of this opinion for records retention purposes is: the client does not own the client file, but merely has a right to a copy of the material. Therefore, the attorney must own the file since only the attorney has both rights to access and possession.

The widespread belief that the client owns the client files can be traced to the subsequent misinterpretations and misstatements of L.A. Op. 330, repeated again and again in ethical opinions and court cases. Here is a sampling of the erroneous restatements of L.A. Op. 330 and the incorrect conclusions reached by courts and bar associations:

  • In Weiss v. Marcus[7] we find: “The ‘work product’ of an attorney belongs to the client, whether or not the attorney has been paid for his services.” (Cite to L.A. Op. 330.)
  • In Kellen v. Delug[8], we find: “. . . It is a breach of the duty imposed by rule 2‑111(A)(2) to retain a client’s case files after discharge, in that an attorney’s work product belongs absolutely to the client whether or not the attorney has been paid for his services.” The opinion further incorrectly cites Weiss v. Marcus[9], a secondary source, as the real source.
  • A. Op. 405 (1982) expands the misinterpretation by quoting both L.A. Op. 330 and Weiss v. Marcus as the definitive source of a new conclusion: “. . . virtually everything in a client’s file is the property of the client, because it either has been copied at client expense, or the time utilized to create it has been at client expense.”
  • A. Op. 420 (1983) further expands the misinterpretation by quoting L.A. Op. 330 and 405 as standing for a similar conclusion: “In opinions 330, 362[10], and 405, this Committee has consistently taken the position that the file, including “work product,” is the property of the client.” Again, the committee ignored what L.A. Op. 330 really said.

From a simple duty stated in L.A. Op. 330 to permit clients to copy the client file, the various ethics committees have granted the client a property right — a gross misinterpretation of the original opinion. Certainly, an ethics committee could make an independent interpretation that the client file is the property of the client. Instead, they assert that L.A. Op. 330 stands for that principle and provides no other support for the property conclusion. In the end, the property conclusion is based on nothing — not L.A. Op. 330, not the court cases, and not the Rules of Professional Conduct.

The Status of the Client File under Property Law

The ethics opinions themselves also confirm that the client does not have a property interest in the client files.

L.A. Op. 103 confirms that the ethics committee only focuses on ethics issues and has uniformly avoided addressing issues of legal rights of the parties:

Query 1: Is the attorney obligated to deliver his entire office file to client without restriction? . . . Query 3: Must the attorney deliver to client or his agent copies of any part or all of the file?

As to query 1 and query 3, the Committee is of the opinion that they each involve a question as to the legal rights of the party rather than ethics. The committee has uniformly taken the position that it should not undertake to answer questions of that character.

A.B.A Informal Opinion 1384 confirms the same position:

Questions can arise as to ownership of or proprietary interests in the contents of a lawyer’s file. These are usually questions of law, and this Committee has no jurisdiction to determine or give opinions on questions of law.

N.Y. State Opinion 623 (1991) confirms the uncertainty regarding the ownership of the client files:

Which documents may be deemed to belong to the lawyer is not always easy to ascertain; in certain instances, the lawyer’s ownership of such documents may be a complex issue of both law and fact.

Therefore, the ownership of the client file should not be a question decided by an ethics committee. Instead, it should be a question of law decided, if necessary, by the judicial system. Obviously, some ethics committees have overstepped their authority.

Even when a client gives an attorney property, such as documents, during the representation, there is some reasonable expectation that is attached to the property:

  • If it is important to the client or the client needs it immediately, the client will ask for it back after the representation concludes.
  • If the client has a later need for the property, the client will ask for it back within some reasonable period after the representation conclusion.
  • If the client does not ask for it back within some reasonable period, the client demonstrates that the property is not needed.
  • If the attorney maintains property of another for some long period of time, and the client does not request it back, the client has probably forgotten about the property or has abandoned it.

Even the law assumes that the property is abandoned if not claimed within some specified period. L.A. Op. 475 addresses the question of documents with intrinsic value that may have been abandoned:

Even after five years has elapsed, the lawyer may not destroy documents that have intrinsic value without the consent of the former client. Intrinsically valuable documents are those materials, such as money orders, travelers checks, stocks, bonds, wills, original deeds, original notes, judgments and the like, which have value, or may have value, in and of themselves4, or which themselves create or extinguish legal rights or obligations.

4Under California Unclaimed Property Law, C.C.P. §§ 1500, et seq., certain intrinsically valuable unclaimed property escheats to the State after seven years. What constitutes “unclaimed” property in the context of closed client files is a question beyond the scope of this opinion.

So while the ethics committee recognizes the importance of preserving documents that have intrinsic value, it also recognizes that the documents may be considered abandoned or unclaimed property after a number of years. Under property law, once the property is abandoned, it no longer belongs to the party, although it may later be claimed if still in existence and the party can prove ownership. Under state escheat law, the unclaimed property should be turned over to the state.

But, A.B.A. Rules of Prof. Conduct, EC 4-6 requires that attorneys protect client confidences and not reveal any information about the client:

The obligation of a lawyer to preserve the confidences and secrets of his client continues after the termination of his employment.

When confronted with the dual obligation of giving client property to the state under escheat laws and protecting client confidences, an attorney faces a legal and ethical quandary. The only action that meets both requirements is to either return the documents to the client or destroy them.

The Status of the Client File under Contract Law

Under contract law, unless otherwise specified in an engagement agreement, the client has no particular right to the work papers and documents in the client file. The client contracts for a result or a specific unit of work. If the work is completed and documents required by the agreement are provided to the client or other designated parties, the appropriate fee is to be paid. If the work is not completed, the client may bring legal action.

But, when the engagement is successfully completed, the client has no right to the client file and cannot compel the attorney to turn over the client file, unless the agreement specifically gave the client the right to the file.

The Client File Belongs to the Attorney

Clients may have a right to the client file, under both under the Rules of Professional Conduct, contract law and property law, if the representation is terminated prior to the conclusion of the matter. After the representation or the subject matter of the representation (e.g., trusts, monetary instruments, etc. exist after the representation ends) have both concluded, the client may have rights to subpoena the file in legal malpractice litigation. Otherwise, the client has not rights to the client file after the representation ends.

The Rules of Professional Responsibility and the early ethics opinions support only one conclusion — the client file is the property of the attorney and the client has a right to copy material from the file. L.A. Op. 197 (1952) supports this conclusion:

It would appear that an attorney is under no legal duty to deliver his office file to the former client. Copies of pleadings and of briefs are made by an attorney for his own use and convenience in the action. They are the attorney’s property and not the client’s. Such correspondence likewise would seem to be the property of the attorney.

Other jurisdictions specifically support this conclusion:

Fl. Op. 88-11 (5/93) states that the material in the client file belongs to the lawyer, not the client.

N.Y. State Op. 623 (11/91):

When a file has been closed, except to the extent that the law may require otherwise, all documents belonging to the lawyer may be destroyed without consultation or notice to the client in the absence of extraordinary circumstances manifesting a client’s clear and present need for such documents. Cf., e.g., N.Y State 398 (1975); N.Y. City 1986-4 (1986). Absent a legal requirement to such extraordinary circumstances, the lawyer’s only obligation with respect to such documents is to preserve confidentiality.

The Rights of Lawyers to Destroy Client Files

Ethics opinions recognize that client files need not be kept forever:

A.B.A. Informal Opinion 1384 states:

All lawyers are aware of the continuing economic burden of storing retired and inactive files. . . . A lawyer does not have a general duty to preserve all of his files permanently. Mounting and substantial storage costs can affect the cost of legal services, and the public interest is not served by unnecessary and avoidable additions to the cost of legal services.

L.A. Opinion 475 (1993) concurs that an attorney “is not required to maintain the files in storage forever.”

N.Y. Opinion 460 (1977) states:

The ethics of our profession do not cast upon lawyers the unreasonable burden of maintaining all files and records relating to their client. Indeed, the Rules of Professional Conduct is remarkably silent on this subject.

N.Y. Opinion 623 (1991) states:

Where a file has been closed, except to the extent that the law may require otherwise, all documents belonging to the lawyer may be destroyed without consultation or notice to the client in the absence of extraordinary circumstances manifesting a client’s clear and present need for the documents.

Why Develop a Records Retention Program for Client Files

A properly designed records retention program provides you significant benefits:

  • Reduce record storage costs each year. A records retention program saves money through space, staff and equipment savings, initially, and then through cost avoidance in future years.
  • Conflict with client records retention programs. Many corporate clients have now established records retention programs. In some cases, the corporate client may have already destroyed its versions of the records under its own records retention program.Rules of Professional Responsibility X of the American Bar Association Rules of Professional Responsibility specifies the legal duty of a lawyer to protect the interests of its clients. An attorney compromises its clients’ interests by maintaining records longer than the period specified by the client’s records retention program. Timely destruction of client files would eliminate the potential embarrassment and risk of legal liability, and also enable the attorney to recognize the other benefits for a records retention program.
  • Liability due to materials found in client files. Separate from the differences in retention periods, an attorney could face liability based upon documents maintained in client files. Some attorneys have also utilized material developed for other clients for the benefit of a follow-on client. Copies of these records may also be maintained in the other client’s file. If discovered inadvertently, this could result in an action for breach of confidentiality or privacy should the documents related to one client be reviewed by another client.

The American Bar Association Rules of Professional Conduct specifies that “the obligation of a lawyer to preserve the confidences and secrets of his client continues after the termination of his employment”.[11] The longer client records remain in existence the greater the chance this obligation may be compromised.

  • Problems related to conflicts checking. An attorney must check for conflicts before accepting new engagements. If the files continue to exist a long time, these old files may have to be reviewed. If the files have been destroyed, no review is possible and a conflict becomes improbable.
  • Problems with abandoned property. After a while, the client forgets about material in the client files or legally the client material must be classified as abandoned. Under state law, abandoned property must be give to the state under escheat law. However, the Rules of Professional Conduct prohibit revealing client confidences. The only solution to resolving this dilemma is to destroy the client file in a timely manner.
  • Problems with commingling attorney and client property. ABA R.P.C. 1.15 prohibits attorneys from commingling attorney and client property. Even if the attorney assumes that the client file contains some client property, than the attorney must also assume that it contains some attorney property – e.g., notes, drafts, copies, reference material from other cases, research, etc. Ethics opinions do not claim that the entire client files is the client’s property (although some comments indicate that the client may have a right to access the entire file). By maintaining the client file with no clear identification of which part belongs to the client, the attorney perpetually violates the ethical prohibition against commingling property.
  • Improved access to valuable information. A records retention program and an improved filing system improve the access to valuable information.
  • Legal compliance. A good records retention program also ensures compliance with the multitude of laws affecting your records.
  • Protection during litigation, government investigation or audit. A good records retention program also protects the organization during litigation, government investigation or audit. The program ensures that designated records exist and that other designated records do not exist.
  • Practice opportunities. When attorneys implement their own records retention program they gain valuable expertise that can be marketed to clients.

The PROBLEMS AND Risks of Destroying Client Files

When Attorneys Believe the Files Belong to the Clients

Since some ethical opinions conclude that the client file belong to the client. In that case, the client file may be destroyed after stated procedures have been followed – notice to client, review of file content, etc. But, there are risks when following this alternative:

  • The attorney must obtain the last known address of the clients and sent them traceable letters (e.g., registered, certified, Federal Express, etc.) offering them the files. Even so, clients may later claim that the attorneys did not send the letter or failed to make a reasonable effort to get a current address.
  • When provided notice, clients may request their files. Attorneys will then have to spend the time and money inspecting the file prior to turning it over.
  • These burden may persuade many attorneys to just “keep everything forever” and accept the costs and problems of permanent retention. Long term retention of the client files may work to the client’s detriment – and violate the Rules of Professional Conduct.

Therefore, even adherence to published ethical opinions – correct or not – creates significant risks for attorneys.

When Attorneys Believe the Files Do Not Belong to the Clients

Even when attorneys accept that the files do not belong to the client, they may fear repercussions based on the published ethical opinions. Here’s some issues that may alleviate these fears:

  • Status of ethical opinions. Ethics opinions are merely the opinion of a local or state bar association committee or A.B.A. committee empowered to issue such opinions in response to real or hypothetical issues raised by bar association member. Ethics opinions are not binding and do not have the power of law. But, grievance boards and courts may elect to treat the opinion as either a definitive statement of the legal profession regarding the issue or as additional evidence of appropriate ethical conduct.
  • Ethical opinions are in conflict with the Rules of Professional Conduct. The Rules of Professional Conduct does indicate that client files belong to the client, does not requirement attorneys to keep records forever and do not require any procedures before destroying client files.
  • Ethical opinions are based on inappropriate assumptions. The ethical opinion related to ownership and destruction of client files are based on incorrect or indefensible assumptions, and try to establish duties and requirements that extend far beyond the pronouncements in the Rules of Professional Responsibility. Based upon the analysis above, the client file does not belong to the client and an attorney has no legal duty to keep the client file forever or even offer it back to the client prior to destruction.
  • Ethics opinions consistently permit attorneys to destroy their records. Destroying client files that only contained attorney property and contained no property belonging to the client without notice to the client or inspection of the files would comply with requirements of the ethical opinions.

Since the ethical opinions defer to the attorney’s judgment in determining the ownership of property in the client files, an attorney acts reasonably by reviewing the ethical opinions and concluding that none of the material in the client file belongs to the client. Similarly, an attorney acts reasonably by inspecting a sampling of client files which would be candidates for destruction under the proposed records retention schedule and actually confirms that the files do not contain client property, contain only abandoned client property, or contain client property of such a minor nature that the property has no current value. An attorney could also verify that client property with intrinsic value – e.g., wills, trusts, stock certificates, bonds, etc. – have either been returned to the clients or are maintained in a safe area other than in the client file.

  • An ethical review or grievance proceeding would likely never be undertaken. A proceeding will probably never occur due to the weaknesses in the ethical opinions, the unenforceable nature of the opinions and the professional judgment exercised by the attorney in reaching these conclusions.

If an ethical review or grievance proceeding still was instituted, the attorney would likely prevail for the reasons stated above. In the unlikely event that the attorney loses, the likely sanctions would be minimal since there would only be a minor technical violations of the ethics opinion, no violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct, and no harm done to the client.

Conclusion

  • The ethical opinions addressing the retention of client files are seriously flawed in both logic and law.
  • An attorney may elect to destroy client files in a reasonable period after the conclusion of the representation, without notice to the client. The retention period should not commence until the subject matter of the representation has concluded.
  • The attorney should document the destruction under the records retention program for review and audit purposes.
  • For all past engagements, the attorneys should place clients on notice by stating the records retention policy in a newsletter or letter sent to all past and current clients.
  • For all future engagements, the engagement letter should state the records retention policy.

DONALD S. SKUPSKY, JD, CRM, FAI, MIT, is President of Information Requirements Clearinghouse (Denver, Colorado). He is the author of Recordkeeping Requirements, Records Retention Procedures, and Legal Requirements for Microfilm, Computer and Optical Disk Records, the co-author of Law, Records and Information Management: The Court Cases, the developer of Retention Manager™ software, and the editor of Legal Requirements for Business Records: The Electronic Edition.

Mr. Skupsky is also a Records and Information Management Consultant, and a noted national speaker and writer on law, records and information management issues. He received the Juris Doctor degree from the University of Michigan Law School and has been admitted to the bar in Colorado and Michigan. He is also a Certified Record Manager (CRM). Mr. Skupsky received the prestigious Emmett Leahy Award in 1994 from the Institute of Certified Records Managers for outstanding contributions to the information and records management profession. In 1995, he was admitted to the Company of Fellows, the highest honor bestowed by the Association of Records Managers and Administrators (ARMA, Inc.). In 1999, he received the Masters of Information Technology award from the Association of Information and Image Management (AIIM).


[1] Los Angeles Bar Association, Opinion 420, October 5, 1983.

[2] American Bar Association, Informal Opinion 1384, “Disposition of a Lawyer’s Closed or Dormant Files Relating to Representation of or Services to Clients”, May 14, 1977

[3] New York State Bar Association, Opinion 623, November 7, 1991.

[4] Regardless of whether termination was for cause, firing of the attorney or withdrawal by the attorney.

[5] L.A. Country Bar Ethics Opinion No. 48, 103, 197, 253

[6] The other two are L.A. Op. 475 and A.B.A. Informal Opinion 1384 (1977).

[7] Weiss v. Marcus, 124 Cal. Rptr. 297 (Cal. Ct. App. 1975).

[8] Keller v. DeLug, 203 Cal. Rptr. 879 (Cal. Ct. App. 1984)

[9] Weiss v. Marcus, 124 Cal. Rptr. 297 (Cal. Ct. App. 1975).

[10] L.A. Op. 362 actually correctly interprets L.A. Op. 330 to mean that a withdrawing attorney has the duty to release documents to the client that have been paid for by the client and make available to the client only office files.

[11] A.B.A. EC 4-6 for the Code of Professional Responsibility.

 

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