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File closure management

Last updated: 27 July 2018
  • Establishing good processes for orderly file closure is central to running an efficient practice, managing risk (Chapter 7 of the SRA Code) and fulfilling your client care obligations (Chapter 1 of the SRA Code).
  • This practice note sets out good practice for managing file closure at the termination of a matter and the need to manage risks inherent in the mismanagement of file administration, and in particular, leaving a file open when it is ready for closure. You are likely to increase the effectiveness and profitability of your practice if you follow good practice in file management. It will also be of benefit in circumstances where the firm may merge or close.
  • This note does not deal with archiving or destruction of files, which is addressed in related practice notes: File retention: trusts and File retention: wills and probate.

Legal status

This practice note is the Law Society's view of good practice in this area. It is not legal advice.

Practice notes are issued by the Law Society for the use and benefit of its members. They represent the Law Society's view of good practice in a particular area. They are not intended to be the only standard of good practice that solicitors can follow. You are not required to follow them, but doing so will make it easier to account to oversight bodies for your actions.

Practice notes are not legal advice, nor do they necessarily provide a defence to complaints of misconduct or of inadequate professional service. While care has been taken to ensure that they are accurate, up to date and useful, the Law Society will not accept any legal liability in relation to them.

For queries or comments on this practice note contact the Law Society's Practice Advice Service.

Professional conduct

The following sections of the SRA Handbook are particularly relevant to this issue:

SRA Principles

There are ten mandatory principles which apply to all those the SRA regulates and to all aspects of practice. The principles can be found in the SRA Handbook.

The principles apply to solicitors or managers of authorised bodies who are practising from an office outside the UK. They also apply if you are a lawyer-controlled body practising from an office outside the UK.

Terminology

Must - A specific requirement in legislation or of a principle, rule, outcome or other mandatory provision in the SRA Handbook. You must comply, unless there are specific exemptions or defences provided for in relevant legislation or the SRA Handbook.

Should - Outside of a regulatory context, good practice for most situations in the Law Society's view. In the case of the SRA Handbook, an indicative behaviour or other non-mandatory provision (such as may be set out in notes or guidance).

These may not be the only means of complying with legislative or regulatory requirements and there may be situations where the suggested route is not the best possible route to meet the needs of your client. However, if you do not follow the suggested route, you should be able to justify to oversight bodies why the alternative approach you have taken is appropriate, either for your practice, or in the particular retainer.

May - A non-exhaustive list of options for meeting your obligations or running your practice. Which option you choose is determined by the profile of the individual practice, client or retainer. You may be required to justify why this was an appropriate option to oversight bodies.

SRA Code - SRA Code of Conduct 2011

SRA - Solicitors Regulation Authority

Solicitor / you - Includes all bodies (recognised and authorised) regulated by the SRA. For the purpose of this practice note, the term 'solicitor' includes Registered European Lawyers, Registered Foreign Lawyers as well as recognised and authorised bodies, their managers and owners.

The Law Society also provides a full glossary of other terms used throughout this practice note

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Practice Advice Service

The Practice Advice Service provides a dedicated support line for Law Society members and employees of law firms. Call us on 020 7320 5675.

> Contact the Practice Advice Service

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