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Question about case documents.

Worcester, MA |

My case ended five months ago and I informed my lawyer that I had planned on picking up my documents from his office. He told us that he would keep the original documents and give us copies. In total, the discovery and court documents can make a 6-foot high pile. I don't understand why he needs the original copies. Is this a normal practice?

Attorney Answers 4

  1. Attorney's have an ethical obligation to keep a client file for a certain period of years.
    In MA it appears to be six years.

    The discussion I have linked to from MA also has this line: "Documents such as original notes or securities have unique value to the client and must also be delivered. If the lawyer cannot locate the client to return these items, they must be safeguarded indefinitely."

    You may want to have another discussion with the lawyer and insist that you receive the originals of any documents you provided him. For example it is not unusual for me to get original certificates from a client - I keep a copy and give him back the original. If it is a motion filed with a court then I give the client a copy. If it is an original that he got through the litigation, like letters or motions it seems a copy to you is sufficient.

  2. Attorneys usually need to keep documents, though sometimes the attorney will retain copies and give the originals to the client.

    Do you want accurate, personalized, legal advice that you can rely on? You will have to hire an attorney, not ask on Avvo. I am not your attorney and am not creating an attorney-client relationship by this post. I am therefore giving only general advice. This advice may not apply to you or your situation; may not take account of all possibilities, and may not match the advice I would give to a client. DO NOT rely on this advice or any other advice on Avvo to make your legal decisions. If you want an answer to a legal question you should retain an attorney who is licensed in your state.

  3. I agree with my brother attorneys and would only add that the rule is that you are entitled to original documents that you supplied to the attorney. You use the term "original copies" and I am unsure what you mean. If they are mere photocopies, then it shouldn't make a difference. Nowadays, with the advent of PDF scanning, many attorneys, like me, will give back the entire file to the client and have the client sign for it rather than underwrite the cost, not to mention undertake the responsibility, of storing originals. Some would argue that your attorney is doing you a service by offering to store your originals for you in a fashion that is probably safer than what most people could provide.

    The answer to this question is for informational purposes only and is expressly not legal advice. This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, a lawyer-client relationship. Readers should not act upon this without seeking advice from professional advisers.

  4. The file belongs to the client and not the attorney. From a practical standpoint, you should be given all originals. The attorney may remove certain things, personal notes, memos to file dictated for CYA reasons, things you have not paid for such as legal research (if you did not pay for it). But, you are supposed to get all originals. This is especially true of pleadings, letters to and from opposing counsel etc. If the case is over you should get everything.

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