9.2 Purposes of File Retention - Regulatory Requirements
There are regulatory provisions governing file retention by lawyers. Rule 119.37(1) of the Rules of the Law Society of Alberta provides that certain trust ledger accounts, financial records and file contents that support the financial records must be retained for at least ten years, the first two of which must be at your chief place of practice in Alberta.
The Rules do not impose a file retention period for other records and files. However, the Practice Advisors strongly recommend that lawyers keep their files for a minimum of ten years after a matter is complete. This recommendation is based both on a general application of limitation periods set out in the Limitations Act R.S.A. 2000 c. L-12 and coordination with the trust accounting rules. However, there will be situations where files should be maintained for longer periods, for example where a client was a minor and the limitation period does not commence until he or she reaches the age of majority, or discoverability issues may apply. Also, remember that original wills, powers of attorney and personal directives must be kept for ten years after probate is granted. You will need to consider the contents of each file to determine how long you should retain copies.
In addition, Rule 118.7(1) requires lawyers to maintain information related to the identification and verification of clients for at least six years following completion of the work for which the lawyer was retained.
You also need to consider statutory provisions such as the Income Tax Act that require retention of documents for a certain number of years.