CAFL Practice Tip of the Month – December 2015

What should you do with DCF records after a case is closed?

A special thanks goes out to Attorney Bill Comeau (CAFL Resource Attorney in Worcester County) for this tip of the month.

Attorneys often ask what they should do with files, particularly those that contain voluminous DCF records, after a case is closed.  In short, CAFL attorneys are not required to maintain DCF records (for any period of time) when we close a file.  A lawyer who is entrusted with the property of a client has certain obligations with respect to it.  However, DCF records are not our client’s property but are documents received by the lawyer as investigatory material or potential evidence and are not required to be maintained.

We do have obligations pursuant to 110 CMR 12.09(2) not to further duplicate or divulge the records we receive to anyone not a party, as well as an obligation to maintain client confidences. That being the case, the safest way to dispose of the records is to shred them.  Don’t just put them into your recycling bins.

If you are concerned about discarding the records, consider scanning them.  There are very good, reasonably priced scanners on the market.  Consider investing in one that comes with Adobe Optical Character Recognition (OCR), which allows you to do a word search and is very helpful when looking for something in a large record.

The Office of Bar Counsel published an article that provides helpful information regarding maintaining client files and file storage:  Talking Trash Recycled (Again) – Guidelines for Retention and Destruction of Client Files.