Should law firms have records management policies? Risk management partners say yes but many firms struggle to define or implement a policy. Not having one can have consequences. 

Church Group Suing Weil Gotshal Claims Firm Withheld E-Mails (NYLJ, 10/23/06) reports that a Weil Gotshal client “is accusing the firm of withholding from discovery e-mail correspondence.” The allegation focuses on a big discrepancy in the number of e-mail messages produced by different lawyers at Weil Gotshal. The firm’s general counsel says the discrepancy is due to one partner who did not save e-mail messages while the others did.

Whether this will cause a problem for Weil Gotshal remains to be seen. But the fact that a client raises this issue and the press reports it illustrates the need for a records management policy and enforcing it. Aside from the potential to create the appearance of inconsistency, haphazard retention may make it impossible for a firm to produce a complete record that would help in its defense. A partial record can be worse than no record or a full record.