If you've been in business for any length of time, you already know that you can't destroy any documents that could be relevant to a possible lawsuit.
What about your electronic records?
Many business owners don't realize just how important electronic documents have become in litigation. Everything from the electronic calendar you use to keep track of which managers are currently on leave to old emails may end up being relevant in certain lawsuits. If that happens, you don't want to find yourself in the position of trying to explain why those things suddenly can't be produced.
How do you make certain that your electronic files are appropriately preserved? Follow this guide:
1. Avoid routine electronic purges
Given the ease with which electronic backups can now be created and maintained, storing your company's electronic records is wiser than purging.
That doesn't mean you can't ever clear out your old files and clean up your company's computers. It just means that there should never be anything "routine" about an electronic purge. Make sure that you consider any possible litigation on the horizon -- even if nothing formal has been filed yet before you proceed with any scheduled electronic cleanups.
If you have any doubts about whether or not it is safe to purge -- don't. Transfer a copy of everything you intend to purge to a storage device for safekeeping before you delete.
2. Educate your employees on electronic document retention
Your employees may also be inclined to clear out their electronic files on a regular basis. Some may even consider it an important sign of their productivity or a necessary step toward organization.
You can't expect your employees to all be aware of any actual or potential business litigation that might result in a request for electronic records. It's wise, then, to institute some official policies in regard to employee email, electronic calendars, documents and memos.
In reality, the need to preserve documents that could be relevant in litigation has always been an important business concern. The digital age has just brought about new forms of those documents -- and new habits have to be developed.