Virginia State Bar Association, Legal Ethics Opinion 1818

Standing Committee on Legal Ethics

An inquiring attorney presented a factual scenario of clients preferring and sometimes requiring the attorney to send documents to the client in electronic format.  The Committee was asked whether or not an attorney (1) must maintain a paper copy of the client’s file during the representation, (2) may destroy paper documents in the client file if the client consents, and (3) may request that a client, as a condition precedent to representation, give this consent.

As to the first question, the Committee answered with caveats that:

“In determining whether an attorney is meeting his ethical responsibilities for a particular client, it matters not generally what form the documents in the file take, but instead whether all the documents necessary for the representation are present in the file.  This is not to say that there are not instances where a paper document might be required.”

The Committee’s answer to the second and third questions was in-short form “yes”, so long as the client’s interests are not prejudiced by the destruction.


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