Manage Risks by Developing a Robust Document Retention Policy

In today’s age of electronic documents, communication, and storage, your company is potentially creating thousands of documents every day. Therefore, a sound document retention policy for your electronically stored information (ESI) is crucial for many reasons including minimizing costs, reducing litigation, and preventing security risks.

Why You Need a Document Retention Policy

Disposing of both hard and electronic documents in a timely fashion provides many benefits, including reducing labor and storage costs and minimizing the potential that a data breach will expose sensitive information. In addition to routine disposal, the documenting, organizing, and streamlining of how data is stored can also make it easier to quickly find important company information.

In the event of litigation, a document retention policy can lower both the risks and costs of the e-discovery obligations involved. To be effective in this way, your company’s document retention policy must be written, systematically and consistently enforced, and flexible in the event of potential litigation or another circumstance that includes a duty to preserve.

Guidelines for Development

While there are many factors that can impact the creation of a robust document retention policy (e.g., the size of your company, the technology it uses, and the resources that are available), here are some basic steps that can help you put a meaningful document retention policy in place:

  • Select a point person or committee;
  • Take inventory of your data;
  • Review state and federal rules on document retention requirements;
  • Create a retention schedule and instructions;
  • Set rules on document destruction;
  • Note litigation holds and other exceptions;
  • Implement document retention training; and
  • Review and update the policy as needed.

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About the Author

Kelley J. Halliburton

Kelley J. Halliburton is an Attorney in the litigation, construction, and government contracts groups at Shapiro, Lifschitz & Schram located in Washington, D.C.

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