Office of Bar Counsel, 1019 WYBJ, Vol. 42 No. 6. 12

Author:Mark W. Gifford, J.
Position:Vol. 42 6 Pg. 12
 
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Office of Bar Counsel

Vol. 42 No. 6 Pg. 12

Wyoming Bar Journal

October, 2019

Mark W. Gifford, J.

Wyoming’s New File Retention Rule: What You Need to Know

Effective September 1, 2019, Wyoming joined a growing number of states who have adopted a client file retention rule. Te new rule is Rule 1.15A of the Wyoming Rules of Professional Conduct.

Te rule defines a “client’s file” as consisting of the following physically and electronically stored materials: 1. all papers, documents, and other materials, whether in physical or electronic form, that the client supplied to the lawyer;

2. all correspondence relating to the matter, whether in physical or electronic form;

3. all pleadings and other papers filed with or by the court, administrative tribunal, arbitrator or mediator or served by or upon any party relevant to the client’s claims or defenses;

4. all investigatory or discovery documents, including but not limited to medical records, photographs, tapes, disks, investigative reports, expert reports, depositions, and demonstrative evidence; and

5. all intrinsically valuable documents of the client.[1]

As a general rule, a client’s file must be retained until five years after completion of the representation unless the client agrees in writing to an alternative arrangement.[2] Tis means that a lawyer is free to include a different retention period in engagement letters, subject to a few exceptions discussed below. Te exceptions to this general, five-year retention rule relate to “intrinsically valuable” documents, certain criminal matters and matters involving a client who is a minor.

However, the rule specifically prohibits a lawyer from destroying a client’s file where the lawyer knows or reasonably should know that: (1) a lawsuit or other legal claim related to the client matter is pending or reasonably anticipated; (2) a criminal or other governmental investigation related to the client matter is pending or reasonably anticipated; or (3) a disciplinary investigation or proceeding related to the client matter or a claim before the Client Protection Fund Committee is pending or reasonably anticipated.[3]

What are “intrinsically valuable” documents?

Te rule defines “intrinsically valuable” documents as those constituting trust property belonging to the client, which must be safeguarded as...

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