When Can You Safely Dispose of Legal Paperwork?
You have a collection of legal documents gathering dust in your office. Should you shred them? That’s a sticky question. Legal records may contain sensitive information. If you dispose of them, you reduce the risk of having the wrong people gain unauthorized access.
Then again, you don’t ever want to dispose of anything that you are legally obligated to retain. So how do you know the difference?
When in Doubt, Ask
If you are ever unsure about getting rid of legal paperwork, don’t proceed without advice. Speak to your legal team, or get advice from a lawyer.
There may be unique circumstances that could override standard regulations relating to document retention and destruction. For example, you may not be permitted to get rid of documents that are part of an ongoing legal process.
Get Rid of Old Legal Reference Materials
This advice applies to law offices, schools with legal programs, and companies that have internal legal departments. Take a look at any reference materials or other educational documentation. Is it outdated? Can you find the information online? Is it taking up valuable real estate in your office? If so, go ahead and get rid of it.
Should you shred this information? If there’s any chance that it contains confidential or proprietary information, yes. Otherwise, it’s probably publicly available. You can simply recycle it.
Keep Contracts Agreements and Leases Indefinitely
These documents should be kept for a very long period of time. In some cases, you should plan on keeping them indefinitely. There have been instances in which a business had to refer to a contract many years after it had been completed.
Fortunately, you do have some options to make recordkeeping a bit easier. You may be able to scan in original documents for archival. Then, you may shred the original documents. Make sure to verify that this is permitted, as you can’t undo this action once you’ve moved forward with it.
Retain Articles of Incorporation
If your company has been incorporated, you will need to retain all of that related information for as long as your company is active. You may even need to keep these records after your business has closed.
In addition to your articles of incorporation, you also need to keep stock ownership records, annual reports, meeting minutes, and bylaws. Fortunately, like other documents that must be retained, you can generally convert these records to a digital format. Then you are free to have paper copies destroyed.
Yes, employee records can be legal documents. There is information that you must keep as part of these records. Also, they may be reviewed as part of certain legal processes or investigations. Keep these for at least seven years after the employee quits, retires, or is fired.
Help with Legal Document Destruction
Secure Enterprise Asset Management (SEAM) in Sioux Falls can help you execute your data destruction policies for legal documents or any other paperwork. We work with businesses in North Dakota and South Dakota in a variety of industries to help shred paper, shred documents, shred hard drives, and securely destroy any other company data they need destroyed. Contact us today for a free quote.