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5 Document Shredding Steps for Legal Practices

Shredded Paper
From wills to business contracts, estate planning to pre-nuptial agreements, medical records to real estate deeds, legal offices handle vast amounts of confidential client information. Access to these documents by unauthorized persons can jeopardize your clients' safety, damage your reputation, and initiate costly litigation against your company.
One way to prevent such eventualities is to implement a proper document destruction policy that involves consistent, timely shredding of documents. To save costs and remain on the right side of the law, outsource your shredding requirements to a provider who understands the intricacies of legal document destruction.
Below are five steps on successful document shredding for legal offices.
 
1. Become Familiar With the Law
As a legal office, compliance with the law should be your guiding principle. Several laws guarantee consumer privacy rights, including the Gramm-Leach-Bliley, HIPPA, and FACTA.
Create and maintain rules for your establishment that are in line with the laws applicable to your practice. Ensure that everyone in the office understands the importance of protecting client privacy and mitigating data breaches through proper document management.
2. Establish a File Retention Policy
Many law firms choose to retain clients' closed files for as long as possible. However, legal offices are not obligated to permanently retain all closed files.
Accumulating closed files can take up precious office space and the cost of managing these documents can add up fast. Keeping closed files for too long can also increase the risk of unauthorized access.
Before signing up for a shredding service, determine the appropriate length of time for retaining closed files and destroying obsolete documents. The State Bar of California recommends retaining clients' files for at least five years.
As part of your file retention policy, create a database to record all closed files, files that are ready for shredding, and the precise date when each file is shredded.
3. Review Files Before Destroying 
After identifying the closed files that you want to destroy, have an attorney in the law firm review these documents first. This pre-shredding review safeguards against accidental destruction of documents that the firm may still need.
Examples of files that can benefit from a pre-shredding review include malpractice claims with longer statutes of limitation and documents pertaining to minor children whose situation may change once the child comes of age.
Other essential documents that require reviewing before disposal include wills and estate planning documents, and criminal cases that involve imprisonment.
4. Get in Touch With Clients
Before destroying their closed files, be sure to inform your clients. Clients have a right to ask for any of their documents that your office may be holding.
Preferably, send a letter to your client informing them of the planned document destruction exercise. Do this with enough time to allow the client to respond and make arrangements to access the files they may need.
Sometimes, you may not receive a response from a client or the client may not object to the shredding of their documents. In both cases, you can proceed to shred the documents in accordance with your office shredding policy provided retention of the files is not required by the law and the files do not have a chance of being needed to represent a client in the future.
5. Select a Suitable Shredder 
Due to the highly sensitive nature of legal documents, consider a shredding service provider that does more than strip or crosscut shredding. For optimal security, choose a provider that pulverizes the documents into very small pieces that will not expose your clients' sensitive information.
Destruction of legal documentation requires more than simple shredding and recycling. At Shred Defense, we can help you protect your clients' privacy and comply with the legal requirements for document handling. Get in touch with us today to learn more about our innovative pulverization shredding process.

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