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Managing and closing files

Posted: 7 October 2019

Your firm should have a system for managing files, including digital files. All your staff should be aware of this system.

Managing files

You should be able to:

  • list open and closed matters
  • identify all files and documents about a client
  • easily check the status of a matter and any action taken

You should have regular file reviews to make sure deadlines are met and that files are closed when they need to be. A supervisor can give fee earners lists of open files, showing their status and any work done, for regular review.

If you outsource file storage, make sure that you meet:

  • outcome 7.10 (SRA Handbook) on outsourcing
  • obligations to your client, including those around the GDPR

Closing files

Closing files when a matter has ended helps you:

  • manage risks
  • fulfil your client care obligations
  • show efficiency

Make sure that data stored digitally is fully deleted from your case management system or digital storage. You may need to carry out a secure delete.

Under GDPR, you must destroy an individual’s data in certain circumstances.

Before closing a file, you should check that the following steps have been taken:

Administration

  • the matter is complete and all actions have been taken
  • the file is organised according to your firm’s system, for example drafts are stored in sequence, documents are stored in date order and duplicates are removed
  • a date for destroying the documents has been recorded

Monies and assets

  • the bill has been paid, including disbursements and administrative fees, and your firm has written off any outstanding amounts
  • assets have been returned to the client where necessary
  • your accounts system ensures that a file cannot be closed if money is still owed

Future-proofing

  • any issues or complaints raised by the client have been dealt with
  • a record has been made of future requirements
  • a final risk review has been carried out
  • the client knows the outcome of the matter and (if appropriate) what will happen to the file

Risks of poor file management

If you do not have a system for managing files, you may fail to:

  • identify issues relevant to a case
  • notice fault or negligence
  • record key dates
  • return assets to a client
  • ensure the matter has been billed and payment received
  • tell the client the matter is closed or further action is needed

Resources

SRA Handbook: Chapter 1, Client Care

SRA Handbook: Chapter 7, You and your business  

Practice note: File closure management

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