Legal Business

“Dead files” — but do they need to smell bad?

One of the best sources of entertainment about professional ethics is the monthly newsletter of the Disciplinary Board of the Pennsylvania (USA) Supreme Court. Because I cannot begin to approach the wittiness of their writers, I beg their pardon for quoting this month's example of bizarre professional responsibility issues.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels' Files

The legal profession owes a debt of gratitude to conservators, who undertake the review and distribution of the files and records of former attorneys who are suspended or disbarred, die, become disabled, or disappear (disappearance happens). The work is often hard, tedious, unappreciated, and done for little or no compensation.

Some conservators in South Carolina have discovered an even more odious problem. They reported to the Supreme Court that the files of departed attorneys were not maintained in a safe and sanitary condition, and in some cases were moldy and infested with insects and rodents. This led the Court to issue an order authorizing conservators to petition for relief from the duty to examine, remove, and relinquish papers in files kept in unsanitary or unhealthy conditions.

Nothing in the Rules of Professional Conduct requires a lawyer to maintain personal or professional hygiene, but Rule 1.15(b) requires that all property in which a client has an interest, including the client's file, must be "appropriately safeguarded." Comment (1) to Rule 1.15 adds, "A lawyer should hold property of others with the care required of a professional fiduciary." The dictionaries don't say so, but most likely "professional" excludes bugs and rodents. [2]


footnote [2]

Unless you are a professional entomologist or rodentologist.

Yes, "rodentologist" is a word. Rodentologists even have an association.

In fact, the British Association of Rodentologists calls itself the BAR (as distinguished from The Bar) and states "the BAR has offered specialist training to many people interested in the health and welfare of rodents, especially Guinea Pigs."

Although, thankfully, "the training offered by the BAR extends well beyond guinea pigs."

The Bar has not always been so dedicated to the health and welfare of rodents, especially guinea pigs.

There are those who allege the presence in The Bar of certain species of rodents.

But seriously...

How long has it been since you have ventured into the place where you store your retired paper files?

Read more on the Walker Clark Worldview 

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