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Ownership of client records has always been a hot topic.  In Washington, DCwhere we practice law, our DC Bar Ethics rule specifically states client files belong to the client and not the law firm because the file was created on behalf of the client. Futhermore, our bar encourages us to return files to client when practical.  I think this is the opinion of most state bars and the American Bar Association.  If I'm wrong, Listserv, please correct me.


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Leontine M. Walker
Hyman, Phelps & McNamara, PC
[log in to unmask]
(202) 737-9622


>>> [log in to unmask] 12/19/00 05:31PM >>>
I would question why you would want to send former clients their files at
all.

This issues comes up often in relation to medical histories and whilst there
can be some perceived benefit in handing over your records to former
clients, I think that the issues need to be really thought through.

First. The record is the property of the law firm and not the client.  The
law firm made the record as part of their professional conduct of the
client's case. The record documents how the case was conducted and the
history of the actions/decisions made on behalf of the client. The
information may have come at least in part from the client but the record is
the firms. There is no obligation, moral or otherwise to "return" the file
to the former client.

Maybe this labours the point somewhat but it is important to be clear about
this issue right from the start.

Now it is a nice thing to think of the former client when the firm no longer
sees a need in keeping the record and maybe the former client will be happy
to receive it. However, frankly, having the chance of it falling into the
wrong hands as seems to have been the case is alarming and more that
sufficient reason to discontinue this practice.

Then there is the example of a former client that sees things on the file
they didn't know at the time such as prejudicial comments against them or
maybe even simple professional error. What if this gives them sufficient
angst to sue?  Limitations of actions legislation may not save the firm,
especially where personal injury is concerned as (certainly in Australia)
this can depend on the plaintiff being aware that they have an actionable
claim - something giving the file to the former client might provide.

-----Original Message-----
From: Gary L. Grieme [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Wednesday, 20 December 2000 8:40 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Mailing Out Client Files


>>>> Please read the confidentiality statement below <<<<

We currently give them client/matter number, matter name, attorney, and date
closed.  We started indexing a file as to its physical contents in '95, so
the clients will get more detail as those files approach destruction.

Gary L. Grieme
Records Manager
Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P.
Minneapolis, MN
612-349-8538
[log in to unmask]

>>> [log in to unmask] 12/19/00 3:30:30 PM >>>
Gary:  I would put information within the body of the letter that should
trigger
their memory cells.



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