October 30, 2008 - Phil Hodgen

Request for help–procedure for scanning, returning client files

For all of you records management people, document management mavens, knowledge management gurus, and others, I need some help and offer in return to share what’s going on here.

Our office is fast approaching paperless office status.

We are dealing with a large pile of old, dead files. We are doing that by moving them from paper to PDF. The question is how do we get rid of the paper once it is scanned?

I see two problems:

  • Ethics. The State Bar of California has rules about client files and who owns them (the client) and what rights the client has to the files. Obviously these rules need to be followed.
  • Evidence. The rules of evidence apply to what we’re doing. Scanned images of documents aren’t the documents. The hearsay rule applies. In the case where something from our files is needed to be introduced as evidence in court, we need to be sure that it will work.

I am not a trial lawyer and my last exposure to Evidence was in the bar exam review course. I am not a legal ethics wizard so I don’t know what the State Bar of California says. But I need to answer both of these questions in order to go paperless.

I’m figuring there are a ton of lawyers out there just like me. Let’s help each other.

Here is my procedure for how to make the “shred or return paper file?” decision.

It is in a PBWiki page. I don’t know how to make a PBWiki page public AND allow you to comment on that page. Please look at the procedures there and make your comments here, or email me with your comments at phil at hodgen dot com. Emailed comments will be shared with everyone.

Yeah you can talk back on Twitter too – @philiphodgen.


Update: Here is my file scanning procedure public wiki page. Again, it is in PBWiki and I don’t know how to make it publicly viewable and keep the comments available. When I make the page visible on the web and choose “locked” as status it closes the comments. I’m still learning to speak PBWiki.