Legal Memorandum: Guidelines Regarding Document Retention

Issue: Generally, what are the prevailing standards for the conversion of paper copies of important contracts and the corresponding destruction of the paper copies?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Document retention and storage protocols; Information; Record
Jurisdiction: Federal
Cited Cases: None
Cited Statutes: 44 U.S.C. § 3301
Date: 04/01/2015

While the concept is a bit broader than the question of original contracts and documents, the Sedona Guidelines regarding records retention may be useful in considering its document retention and storage protocols.  The Sedona Conference distinguished “information” from “records.”  The Sedona Conference, The Sedona Guidelines: Best Practices and Commentary for Managing Information and Records in the Electronic Age, The Sedona Conference (ALI-ABA Course Materials of Study Materials), SK071 ALI-ABA 5.  Nonetheless, this line of thinking may prove useful in moving forward with document (contract or otherwise) retention:

“Information” is a basic but intangible resource that organizations harness to meet their operational, legal, historical and institutional needs.  Every day selected pieces of this “information” are captured as “documents” or "data,” giving this intangible resource tangible form and enhancing the ability to access and share it. Although “information” can refer to everything from telephone message slips to the CEO’s thoughts on next quarter’s forecast, throughout this document the word “information” will be used to refer generally to all of an organization’s tangible documents and data–in both electronic and other formats.

“Records” are a special subset of “information” deemed to have business value to an organization and warranting special attention concerning retention, accessibility and retrieval.  This declaration of value can be by operation of law or by specific classification by the organization. Designating certain documents or information as “records” can also help an organization compile and preserve its “institutional memory.”  A “record” can memorialize business actions or events […]


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