How to establish a document retention policy

By Juliana Morehead, J.D.

Fraud & the Law

Never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today.
Benjamin Franklin
In the Nov./Dec. 2005 column, I focused on the business effects that Arthur Andersen LLP vs. United States has had on organizations.1 The emphasis on implementing and maintaining document retention policies (DRP) is now constantly resonating throughout organizations, small and large. Even though most large organizations have begun the tedious undertaking of reexamining their DRPs, and more significantly, their enforcement of them, smaller companies appear hesitant to implement these invaluable policies.

In researching the Andersen case and DRPs, and reviewing my own column, I realized that the main hurdle for small businesses in implementing DRPs is not knowing where to begin. Most of these organizations don't believe they have the financial resources to hire counsel, provide storage space, and allot employee time to review, manage, and update the policy. Yet, the cost of developing and operating a DRP is menial compared to the necessary retrieval, review, and production that often occurs in litigation. Thus, this column provides companies with tools to understand how to establish a DRP, as well as a sample policy for guidance.

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