Maximizing Efficiency and Reducing Cost: Creating a Defensible Retention Policy

A retention policy is a company’s plan for handling the storage and deletion of both paper documents and electronically stored information (ESI). Due to increasingly vast volumes of electronic files and communications, companies are now realizing the significant need for comprehensive records retention policies. The benefits of having such a policy in place, more often than not, will far outweigh the costs associated with its implementation. This article provides some suggestions and considerations for developing an effective retention policy.

The Policy Should Cover All Records — Paper and Electronic

  • The policy should be consistent throughout all of the company’s offices.
  • The company’s current technology should be aligned with its archiving strategy.
  • The policy should stipulate roles and accountabilities within the organization.
  • Larger companies should consider a full-time, highlevel records management executive that works closely with both the Information Technology and legal departments.
  • Smaller companies should consider hiring a records management consultant and should continuously assess that the record retention program meets its needs.

Impeccable Records Management, While a Large Cost, May Ultimately Result in Large Savings

  • Companies that invest time and resources in preparing a comprehensive records retention program generally can comply with discovery obligations more efficiently.
  • Be particular about the process of saving and organizing documents. Classify documents by record type and required retention period.
  • The records manager should maintain a Data Map that inventories where each type of record is stored.
  • If a company can find the relevant documents with precision, it can save time and money on unnecessary review of extraneous documents.

When to Discard

  • After ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements and the company’s business needs, the company should not keep records that are no longer needed.
  • Less data means less discovery cost.
  • The more records a company maintains, the greater the risk of mistake in a document production.

The Retention Rules Must Be Written Clearly

  • The best retention rules are those that are easily understandable by the company’s employees, records manager, and legal department.
  • Retention standards and schedules should be posted to an internal webpage for immediate reference.
  • Employees should be trained and then regularly re-trained in the retention policy.

Audit the Retention System

  • Document employee policy training and record destruction and carefully maintain that information.
  • This will shore up the company’s defensibility in a potential litigation and demonstrate that its retention policy is an ongoing effort.