Simon Chester, blogging at Slaw, reports on a disturbing trend of missing government records:
Countless federal records are being lost to posterity because federal employees, grappling with a staggering growth in electronic records, do not regularly preserve the documents they create on government computers, send by e-mail and post on the Web.Unfortunately, this problem is not confined to government. The flood of electronic information is not being captured effectively by all law firms. Lawyers, legal assistants and secretaries can't stay on top of their e-mail and are falling behind in their efforts to put their electronic correspondence in their firm's records management system.
This is a major law firm knowledge management problem. Not only does this correspondence contain valuable know-how, but in some cases it constitutes an important part of a client's record file. Yet gaps persist and the problem grows in magnitude.
Some firms have tried to address this by making it mandatory to file client-related e-mails in their central records system. Others have encouraged lawyers to do the right thing and have even offered relatively easy tools and training sessions to help with the process. However, far too many firms have effectively closed their eyes to the problem, evidently hoping that it will just go away of its own accord.
Document retention policy? Hardly. But, these chickens will come home to roost some day, most likely in the form of an unpleasant law suit. Is your firm prepared for that eventuality or is it in denial about its records mismanagement? Now's the time to ask the tough questions and implement some sensible solutions.