E-Records Should Be Treated Same as Paper

The Law Society of Upper Canada is having a teleseminar at noon today entitled “The New Guide to File Retention and File Destruction.”

I’m one of the speakers – talking about issues relating to electronic records.

One of the fundamental principles of electronic records from a records retention and destruction perspective, is that electronic records should be retained and destroyed on the same schedule as paper records.

As I was thinking about the issues, it occurred to me that if I had to hazard a guess, I suspect many law firms, and many businesses for that matter, have not come to grips with this yet. 

The reason is simple. Take the period of time a file is active, then add to that the time a closed file should be retained. (The LSUC suggests 15 years for typical files.) Then consider how long electronic records have been around in a significant quantity. We are just now coming to a time when law firms might have a significant amount of electronic records in addition to paper files. 

Certainly word processing and email have been around for more than 15 years, but in the early years the only thing that was kept was the paper. 

Personally, my viewpoint is that the electronic versions (word documents, email, images, faxes, collaboration tools, instant messaging, etc.) of documents are the real, original documents. The paper versions are just a physical manifestation of those records.


  1. David Allsebrook

    I enjoyed your presentation yesterday. On reflection I have a couple of follow up questions.
    What is the expected life span of data on a DVD or a flash drive?
    What is the expected life span of the use of DVD readers on personal computers?