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Document Creation, Retention, And Destruction Policies

Harvey L. Pitt | September 26, 2006

As a practicing lawyer, my clients were all well aware of the infamous “Pitt’s Postulate”: Whenever you think you’ve destroyed the last copy of any document, there’s always one more that exists, and it will surface at exactly the most inopportune time. The only exception, of course, is if you really need the document, at which point you’ll discover that you actually did destroy the very last copy.

As we’ve moved from hard-copy to digital documentation, the complexities of record keeping have increased exponentially. And prosecutors as well as judges have made it clear that the failure to maintain or produce documents can have dramatically negative consequences.

Sometimes, even intelligent people make bad situations worse. Time and again, when people learn that they or their companies may be the target of a lawsuit or government investigation, they panic and attempt to “clean up” their files, which is often perceived after the fact as a...

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