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Creating a Document Retention Policy

By James M. Shaker

1. Identify the types of documents you have and where they are stored.

2. Analyze the value of these documents (legal, historical, or administrative?). Consider any legal requirements for maintaining certain types of documents.

3. For each category of documents, select the number of years, or range of years, they should be kept.

4. Consider what resources are available for storage of documents. How easily can the stored documents be searched and retrieved in the case of litigation? How easily can you identify what documents need to be destroyed at the proper time?

5. Decide what methods of document destruction to use. Understand your system’s automatic backups and make sure destruction is complete.

6. Create a draft policy. Potential sections are:

a. Policy purpose

b. Definitions

c. Procedures for implementation

i. Procedures for document review and purging

ii. Procedures for document labeling and storage

iii. Person(s) responsible for implementing the policy

d. Table of document type, value, years retained, and destruction method

7. Have key employees and administrators review the draft policy and provide comment.

8. Finalize and formally adopt the policy.


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This message has been created by the Employment Rights, Benefits & Labor Group at Ryan, Swanson & Cleveland, PLLC to advise of recent developments in the law. Because each situation is different, this information is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended to provide legal advice on any specific facts and circumstances. Ryan, Swanson & Cleveland, PLLC is a full-service law firm located in Seattle, Washington.

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