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Closing, storing and destroying files

Where any solicitor considers that any file should be retained, then that file should be retained.

In relation to files that have been closed where clients were not advised that the files would be closed and where original documentation may not have been returned to clients, it is considered that any such file in which there is original documentation should be retained for a period longer than the 7 years.

A disposal form should be completed in respect of each of the existing closed files for the purpose of disposal of those files. However, no effort should be made to seek to return any original orders/agreements or documentation to clients, having regard to the time lapse, difficulties about current address, and to avoid causing any concern/difficulties for former clients.

Files that were opened and closed more than thirteen years ago can be disposed of in total, even if there is original documentation or orders on those files. It is considered that a 13 year period is a very reasonable approach in relation to the disposal of files in which no activity has taken place for a period in excess of 13 years. It will, of course, be necessary to review each individual file and, in the review of files, a law centre may come to the view that certain files should be retained. If that is the case, then those files should be retained.

Files closed more than seven years ago should also be reviewed. In these cases, any duplication of material and any material relating to an application for legal services, fees and expenses or means tests should be removed from the files and disposed of. The files should then be marked for disposal on a date 13 years from the closing date.

All law centres should maintain a secure facility for storing files that need to be maintained on premises and a method for recording them. Passageways corridors or stairways should not be used for storing files, even for a short period while files are being prepared for disposal. 

The cabinets needed to store closed files should comprise of:-

  • at least one drawer for each year of closed files for the next twelve years; and
  • sufficient space to store any other files which might be retained for a longer period 

For example, a file to be destroyed in 2017 should be placed in the cabinet labelled “2017”.  At the end of each year all files in the cabinet marked with the current year can be destroyed confidentially.  That cabinet should then be re-labelled with a date 12 years from now. If all files that can be destroyed have been destroyed, and the remainder organised for destruction according to these instructions and storage space still remains at a premium, the law centre can seek authorisation from Organisation to store files securely off-site. 

Permission will not be granted unless law centres can confirm that they have properly disposed of and arranged existing files in line with the Handbook.  Those files to be stored off site should be those nearest to disposal date. Under no circumstances should files be stored off-site without the express authorisation of Organisation and without Organisation being aware of their location. 

Head Office should be consulted, in the event of any doubt whatsoever over what constitutes a confidential and secure manner for the disposal of files. The destruction details of the file must be recorded.

As a practical example of the date on which a file should be marked for disposal, a case file that is being closed in the year 2011 should be retained for 7 years, namely the years 2012 to 2018, and marked for disposal in 2019.

Child care case should be closed if a full care order was made with no renewal date. Where a care order is made with a specific (calendar) review date arrangements will be made to include a status on EOS to indicate that a child care file, in this regard will be marked dormant but the file will not be closed or put away and the applicant will not be required to re-apply.  Cases where care orders are made ‘to be reviewed on the child’s 16th birthday’ should be closed.

If costs are outstanding on a file which is due to be closed, the matter should be referred to Legal Services for a decision as to whether or not recovery of costs should be pursued.

Where there are orders for sale of properties but the properties have not sold, the file should be closed on receipt of the final order and a register of outstanding settlements should be kept as an Excel spreadsheet in the format on the following page. Managing solicitors have a responsibility to monitor the register and should periodically ask solicitors to check with the relevant clients as to whether a sale has taken place. Details of every settlement must be added to the Financial tab in EOS.

Eos-logo

Prior to closing a client file, the solicitor/caseworker should be satisfied that legal services have been concluded and no further instructions e.g. an appeal, are likely to arise.

  1. On EOS, enter the file closure workflow for the relevant case type (e.g. DIVA20.Close File) and complete all required steps.
  2. Print the file closure form (available in the Documents tab on EOS) and attach to the front cover of the file.
  3. Fully complete the file closure form, taking into account the guidelines in this chapter regarding retention of files.
  4. Remove all original documentation from the file and take a record of this and place the record on the file.
  5. Print out a file closure letter (available in the Documents tab on EOS) and have the solicitor/caseworker sign the letter.
  6. Send the file closure letter, along with the original documentation and a comment card, to the client.
  7. Attach to the front of the file a full index of the entire contents of the file. If you have been scanning all documentation on the file to EOS, you can create this index automatically, by clicking on the Documents tab and collating all the documents on the file. The front page of the collation generated will be an index. You can print the index only and then discard the collation. If you have not been scanning all documents  to EOS or otherwise working outside of EOS you must proceed at this point to review the file against the index generated and add any documents not included to the index.
  8. On EOS, make sure the File Closure workflow is completed. Do not start another workflow.
  9. On EOS, click the twisty, then click “Set Outcome”. Choose an outcome (normally “Aid file completed and closed”) Enter the date for destruction and click Close File. The file is now closed on EOS.
  10. Store the closed file, along with the other closed files, in an area of the law centre’s filing room dedicated to the purpose. Each drawer in this area should be clearly marked with the year for disposal of the file and the file should be placed in a suspension within this drawer.
  11. On EOS, a comment should be added referring to where to the file is stored.

 Note: You cannot close a file on EOS while a workflow is open

Every time a file is moved, a new comment should be added to the case on EOS stating where it is. If the file is stored offsite the full details (including company, box number and file number) should be added to EOS

AAA.File closure letter
Available via Other Templates.

PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL

Mr John Smith

1 Main Street

Ballymore

Co. Dublin

1 September 2015

RE: CONCLUSION OF LEGAL SERVICES

Dear Mr Smith,

I refer to the above matter.   

[As you are aware, on ______________________ an Order of the _____________ Court was made and I enclose a copy of same. You should keep this document in a safe place as you may need it for official purposes.  In addition, please find enclosed all original documentation which was held on the file.] 

[As you are aware the matter on which you have been provided with legal services has concluded and I am closing your file.]   

You should note that your file will be retained in storage for ___ years after which it will be securely destroyed in line with Legal Aid Board policy. 

If you wish to re-apply for legal services at any point in the future please contact the law centre.

I am enclosing a comment card which you may wish to complete and return to the Legal Aid Board, 48-49 North Brunswick Street, Dublin D07 PE0C.

Yours sincerely,

__________

Jane Jones

Solicitor

AAA.File disposal form
Available via Other Templates

LEGAL AID BOARD --- FILE DISPOSAL FORM
Name of Client ______________
File Reference Number ______________
State the year in disposed of ______________
Title and record of any court proceedings ______________
Date of closing letter to client ______________
Confirm if all original documentation has been returned to the client or appropriately retained in the law centre  ______________
Please include any comments related to the files closure and eventual disposal ______________

Disposal form completed by:  ____________
Date: ___________ 
Solicitor: ___________
Law Centre: __________

Files should be retained in the law centre for the following time periods:-

family law and litigation -  7 years,
conveyancing -    12 years,
childcare -    until the youngest child who is the subject of the care order reaches the age of eighteen, but at least seven years
other cases - depending on the nature of the case and having regard to the views of the individual solicitor, but not less than 7 years.
Schedule of outstanding settlements with potential costs recoveries
Client name and address File ref

Date of court order/ Settlement

Terms of court order / settlement Date of implementation Date file closed Most recent information

When a solicitor intends to close a file the file should be reviewed for the purpose of making sure that there are no matters outstanding that need to be attended to.

When a file is being closed, a letter from the solicitor informing the client should be sent and a copy retained on the file.  Documents should be returned to clients as follows:-

  • all original documentation, e.g. court orders, separation agreements, except documentation which in the view of the
  • solicitor should not be returned e.g., professional/expert reports, and a record kept of this;
  • all original documentation furnished by the client; and
  • any conveyancing documentation.

A “disposal form” should be attached to the outside of each file. A model disposal form is shown on è Page 8-9 and must be used. Once the file disposal form has been completed a record of the closure of the file should be entered on a Closed File Register on the IT system. 

When closing files, law centres should ensure that the files are closed in such a way that they can be marked with the year of disposal so as to avoid the need for the files to be reviewed prior to disposal.  In this regard, a register should be maintained of the files that have been marked for disposal by reference to the year of disposal, with files being allocated a number. This reference number should be recorded on the IT system. 

The details of closed files must be recorded on EOS, in the “Comments” tab at present.