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Review these guidelines before you’re hit with a lawsuit. You’ll help your lawyers to adroitly defend you. Also, if you’re proactive, you’re less likely to suffer adverse rulings by a judge if opposing attorneys accuse you of altering or destroying documents. In fact, you’re likely to impress any judge or jury.


Documents and records keep piling up and it’s a temptation to clean house, right? In this litigious world, you need to be careful in deciding what you must keep and what can go.

Federal court rules require keeping relevant corporate information. So even if you’re afraid to keep records in case you’re hauled into court, beware, you must still provide it in the event of a lawsuit. If you don’t, for sure you’ll risk a heavy fine.

Opposing lawyers always request copies of records and digitally stored information in looking for evidence in the discovery phases of court cases.

Such records can range from financial documents to personnel files.

Recordkeeping guidelines

To make certain you and your attorneys are ready to do battle in court, there are certain precautionary guidelines for record-keeping to keep in mind:

  1. Determine which of your employees have the best experience with your information technology.
  2. Assemble all of your record-keeping policies.
  3. Pinpoint your backup methods. That certainly includes all archiving and tape systems.
  4. Anticipate which documents could be susceptible to either being changed or lost. Strategize on prevention measures.
  5. Forecast how or when you’ll displace or substitute any data or documents and IT systems.
  6. Strategize how to keep any current or future documents and digital records.
  7. If you have third parties, such as vendors, that have pertinent records, decide how to guarantee they’ll be preserved.
  8. Pinpoint any records that you anticipate might require forensic recovery.
  9. Preserve any data or metadata that describes and gives information about other data.
  10. Figure out what you need to do in order to preserve or retrieve data on out-of-date software or old computer systems.
  11. Court cases usually involve reviewing other sources including instant messaging, texts and voicemails. Detail how you keep such communications.
  12. Organize your email practices – past, present and future.
  13. Determine practices that relate to employees’ personal email accounts and any systems they use.
  14. List or inventory all software applications past and present.
  15. Determine which electronic formats with which you work to manage or preserve data.
  16. Recall any past or current databases.
  17. Decide how you can easily identify relevant information in search techniques and technology. That includes keyword search and other search approaches.
  18. Get legal advice: Decide what format you’ll use to supply the requested legal information to opposing attorneys and your own lawyers. Your options might include CDs, DVDs, thumb drives or a file transfer protocol (FTP).
  19. Learn how to provide both digital documents or hard-paper copies in case they’ll be necessary.
  20. Astutely segregate your trade secrets or other privileged information from files and documents you would be giving to opposing attorneys.
  21. Determine which of your records are consequential to any regulatory rules, export restrictions, and domestic and foreign-privacy laws.
  22. Decide which of any records that you could adequately claim aren’t accessible and why won’t provide them. Plausible explanations could undue hardship or and exorbitant expense.

From the Coach’s Corner, editor’s picks:

Document Employee Behavior to Withstand Legal Scrutiny — The key to documenting incidents in your workplace is to look into the future. Imagine how others will see your actions down the proverbial road. Here’s how.

Avoid IRS Pain – Employee Expenses vs. Compensation — There’s some confusion over reimbursement of employee expenses as major companies have been forced to pay millions in unreimbursed expenses and fines. How to avoid issues with the IRS.

Manager Beware – the Most Common EEOC Complaint — Appearances matter, especially if the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission considers you to be a hostile boss. Retaliation by management is the most-common source of EEOC action.

HR – Compliance with DOL Rules for Remote Workers — The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) rules for sending labor-law notices to remote workers mean trouble for your business, if you fail to comply.

Strategies – Reshape Staff to Cut Costs, Avoid Lawsuits — Management best practices include avoiding discrimination lawsuits and not making excuses for poor performing employees. See these tips.

“Sooner or later, those who win are those who think they can.”

-Paul Tournier


Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.