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Disaster and Emergency Preparedness
Storing Client Files

Your client files contain irreplaceable information. Reconstructing a lost file is a very time-consuming process. In most cases you will never be able to completely reconstruct everything that was in a lost file. Furthermore, you have an ethical duty to protect your client files.

Take the following steps to protect the contents of your client files in your office:

1. Keep active files up to date and well-organized: This will help you find file information when resources are limited and stress is high.

2. Properly store files and documents: Don't leave your files on desks, chairs, the floor, windowsills. Anything left out is more susceptible to theft, fire, water or smoke damage. They should be placed in a fire-resistant filing cabinet.

3. Take extra precautions with irreplaceable documents: Client originals and other irreplaceable documents should be stored in a fire-proof safe (not a fire-resistant one).

4. Don't put critical documents or files on or near the floor: This can help minimize the potential of water damage.

5. Store photographs and negatives separately: Keeping them separate may be a life saver in the event one set is damaged or destroyed.

WHAT TO STORE OFF-SITE

Closed client files should be stored off-site at a proper storage facility. There are companies that specialize in managing and storing documents. You may also find that having off-site copies of critical, practice-related documents could be helpful if your office is destroyed or can't be accessed. Consider keeping copies of the following documents in a secure, off-site location:

1. Your disaster recovery file and all supporting information (contact lists etc.);

2. Partnership and other firm-related agreements and documents (including minute book);

3. Leases or sub-leases;

4. Insurance policy and broker information;

5. Inventory list, including videotape or photographs if taken;

6. Employee contact list; and

7. Any other important administrative records or documents.