The Firm retains client files following the end of the case in case of allegations of a negligence claim and in some cases because we are required to by law, for e.g. the Money Laundering Regulations, or for regulatory purposes.  However, Data Protection Legislation and specifically Principle 5 of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), prohibits keeping data indefinitely and the firm must not keep data for longer than is necessary.

This Policy sets out the retention period for paper and electronic files, which will vary depending on the case type.  You must ensure that a client is informed at the outset and the conclusion of their matter what information will be stored and for how long.

Original documents should be returned to the client, unless we have instructions to retain (for example Deeds to property or Wills).  Where we retain original documents they should not be destroyed without informed consent from the client and should only be destroyed after consultation with the Data Protection Officer Cyril Arridge.

All client ID obtained, for the purposes of the Money Laundering Regulations 2007, must be retained for a least 5 years.

During this retention period we will not process a client’s personal data, (other than for the purpose of storage), unless the client contacts us to raise a query or complaint or we are required to produce the data for legal reasons.

Retention Periods

These are broken down below into three separate groups but please note that these time periods relate to the file.  Key documents for example (not an exhaustive list) - Final Orders/Agreements/Deeds relating to property/other Deeds e.g. Change of Name/Trust Deeds/Powers of Attorney should be stored in paper form as Deeds or  electronically, independently of the file and possibly for longer periods, depending on the circumstances.

1.     Minimum of 7 years:

  • Care and Children matters
  • Change of Name
  • Commercial Transactions
  • Company Formation
  • Court of Protection
  • Crime (save for murder which must be retained for life)
  • Debt Collection
  • Divorce & Ancillary Relief
  • Environmental
  • Estate Agent Sales
  • Inheritance Tax
  • Licensing
  • Litigation
  • Mortgage Repossession
  • Partnership Agreement
  • Patents
  • Personal Injury
  • Power of Attorney - (review at death)
  • Secured Lending
  • Trusts – (review when Trust comes to an end)

NB. time runs from date file is archived.  It is therefore important to arrange for the file to be closed and sent for archiving as soon as possible, after work is finished and the bill is paid.

2.      Minimum of 16 years:

  • Advice on Guarantee
  • Commercial Property
  • Declaration of Trust
  • Easements – including drainage easements          
  • Probate
  • Property – Sale & Purchase (including both ‘Freehold’ & ‘Leasehold’)
  • Tax
  • Transfer of Equity
  • Transfer of Ownership

3.      Longer Periods  -  Subject to review:

  • Personal Injury Cases involving infant settlements – (review at age 22)
  • Wills/Codicils - (review at death) or if lost touch with client -  110 years from date of birth (or 90 years from date of Will if date of birth not known).
  • Equity Release – (review 12 months after death)

    4. Limited data will be obtained from prospective clients (prospects).  If they do not become clients the information will be destroyed within 6 months.  However, if they are given any advice (First Free Advice, Ask the Legal Expert etc) then their details and a record of the advice given will be retained as if they are paying clients in order that we can defend ourselves against claims and avoid conflicts of interest.

The above retention periods have been selected with reference to the Law Society’s guidance and will be reviewed from time to time by the Data Protection Officer Cyril Arridge.

At the end of the retention period, the paper file will be recovered from archiving and shall be confidentially destroyed.  In relation to the electronic files, they will be archived and destroyed, so far as is possible from the IT system in place at the time.