What should I consider when destroying files stored electronically?

My firm is reviewing its file retention and closure procedures. When we destroy files, we may need to delete the files that are electronically stored on our computer hardware. Is there any Law Society guidance on what we need to consider?

There is some guidance on deleting digital data in the Law Society's practice note on file closure management.

You may need to delete digitally stored data on closure of the file.

In these circumstances, you should take into account the fact that the deletion of electronic files from a hard drive is not as straightforward as the destruction of paper files.

There are forensic tools with which 'deleted' data can be retrieved and accessed.

Your records management policy should therefore make provision for the 'scrubbing' of data, where appropriate, so that destruction and storage of electronic files is consistent with the management of your paper records.

For further information, read the Law Society's file closure management practice note.

The Information Commissioner's Office has also published guidance on IT asset disposal for organisations.


While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information in this article, it does not constitute legal advice and cannot be relied upon as such. The Law Society does not accept any responsibility for liabilities arising as a result of reliance upon the information given.

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Call the Practice Advice Service on 020 7320 5675 or email practiceadvice@lawsociety.org.uk.

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