(Please read if you are not in the
New England Region.)
- Obama's New Waiver (I-601A) Regulation in Effect March 4, 2013
- Effect of Receiving Public Benefits and Non-Payment of Child Support on Immigration Petitions (Nov 2012)
- Deferred Action Program for Young Immigrants or Childhood Arrivals - DACA Part 2 (August 2012)
- Deferred Action Program for Young Immigrants or Childhood Arrivals - DACA Part 1 (July 2012)
- Residency and travel abroad: Avoid losing your residency (Dec. 2011)
- Cancellation of Removal/Deportation, Second Quarter 2011
- Priority Dates Advanced - December 2010
- The "U" Visa, First Quarter 2010
- Conditional Residency Newsletter, Third Quarter 2009
- American Citizenship Newsletter, Second Quarter 2009
- First Quarter 2009 Newsletter (immigration benefits for stepchildren, deportation, waivers, TPS, 245i, criminal charges and immigration)
- Is your Immigration Petition Taking too Long? You may sue the immigration service (USCIS)
- The 2008 U.S Presidential Candidates on National Immigration Reform
- December 2007 Newsletter
- Newsletter Index
Records Management & Retention Policy
At FitzGerald & Company, record management and retention is a continuous process, not one that is initiated at the conclusion of a matter. During our representation of a client, it is the responsibility of all staff to be extremely careful to make sure that all documents, agency/administrative notices, time and emails are properly recorded in our digital filing and practice management system, Time Matters, and that all documents that our office produces or receives from third parties are copied and sent to the client upon receipt or production. All original documents received from the client (i.e. birth certificates, marriage certificates, passports, pictures, etc.) are to be copied for our files and the originals returned to the client immediately. It is our policy not to keep any original documents /property belonging to a client. However, the clients are expected and required to bring their original documents, as indicated by the attorney to all appointments, meetings, agency interviews, or hearings.
New matters are identified by the client’s name and assigned a unique Matter Number, by which it is identified in all our firm working records including billing and accounting. We orderly file matter documents chronologically during the life of a matter. We will scan and appropriately identify and save in our practice management software, Time Matters, all documents not created by our firm, as they are received; in order to have a complete electronic copy of the file. Records for a matter that is open are kept in our numerical filing system and only removed when the file will be worked on. The files are not to leave the office except for court appearances and other authorized purposes.
Once a matter is concluded, the responsible attorney must make sure that every document related to the case is filed properly and that any duplicate material is discarded in the designated shredding bins. The responsible team member will mark the case as closed in our Practice Management software, will enter the close date of the case, will physically move the file to our closed case archives, and will notify the client in writing our firm has closed his/her case.
Record Retention Periods
Our record retention period for immigration, personal injury, and all other non-criminal matters is a minimum of 7 years. For criminal matters, the period will be adjusted on a per matter basis (e.g. until all direct appeals have been exhausted or the sentence has been served, or until requested by the client to provide a copy of the file to a new attorney, and after receiving a signed receipt of the file), and after communicating our intention of destroying the file in writing to the client and successor counsel, but will be no less than 7 years.
The retention period for the client records commences immediately from the close date shown in Time Matters, which is determined by the date of the final case closure letter sent to the client
Confidential Destruction of Client/Matter Records
Once per year, we will identify the oldest closed matters to send to off site storage, based on our space limitations and we will record in Time Matters the location of the file per our Records Management Service. We will also identify the matters for which the retention period has elapsed and request our Records Management Service to destroy them. Before destroying any criminal matter, the administrative team will seek the Managing attorney’s approval. To ensure confidentiality in the destruction of records, our firm will only work with professional records management and destruction companies.
Client Record Destruction Authorization
By signing our contract, the client authorizes our office to destroy closed matter records past their retention time, according to our record’s retention policy. We provide our clients with copies of all documentation in their file during the course of our representation; however, if at any point the client wants additional copies of his/her matter records, after the matter has been closed, the client will have to advance payment for the copying and record retrieval expenses (e.g. if the records have been sent to off-site storage). Nevertheless, the firm will not refuse to make available to the client materials in his/her file, on the grounds of nonpayment, when retention of these records will prejudice the client, in accordance to the ethical rules of legal practice.
Former Client’s Files
On occasion, a former client may request the Firm to return his/her records or to deliver them to another lawyer. This usually occurs in conjunction with the client terminating the Firm’s representation with respect to a particular matter or with respect to the client in general, or in connection with a lawyer leaving the Firm.
The originating attorney must review all such records before they are sent to the client or substitute counsel to ensure that they contain only the clients’ records. Appropriate receipts should be obtained from the client and successor counsel. No client records shall be delivered to a former client or to substitute counsel without the approval of the Managing Attorney.
Criminal and criminal/immigration matters have a retention period that requires an annual review. Annually, the administrative team will send the Managing Attorney a list of all criminal and criminal/immigration matters that the firm has in storage. The attorney should then decide if he wishes to contact the client and attempt to return the records of the client/matter to them.
If the Managing Attorney wishes to attempt to return the records, the administrative team will provide to the attorney a draft letter to the client, advising that the Firm would like to return the records from matter to the client. Such a letter should be reviewed and signed by the Managing Attorney. Once reviewed and signed by the Managing Attorney, the administrative team will send the letter to the client.
If the client cannot be located, the Managing Attorney should notify the administrative team, in writing, of the situation and the file should be marked for permanent retention.
Firm Business and Administrative Records
Accounting and financial firm records such as bills, invoices, bank statements, time sheets, payroll records, etc. as well as other administrative records will be retained for at least 7 years, except where it is not mandated by law. After this retention time, these records will be destroyed as needed, in the same confidential manner by our Records Destruction Service.
Note on Destruction of Firm Records
Should a claim or action be pursued against the Firm (having received notice of the claim), the Firm’s records relevant to any potential or ongoing claim or action should be retained until the claim or action has ended, even if the retention period for the records has ended. If destruction is scheduled on records related to a claim or action pursued against the Firm, destruction should not commence until the claim or action has ended.
Client/Matter electronic documents in our firm server have the same minimum retention period as the paper files.
Incremental backups of the network are done twice daily. Each day’s backup is saved for one week, until it is overwritten the next week.