Legal documents are owned and managed by every business, they are essential documents that need to be kept safe, secure and only accessed by those who are authorised.
Which documents do businesses need to keep?
The amount of legal documents a business owns can vary, however there are a fundamental few that every business will have, these include:
- Business plan documents
- Business contracts
- Standard Confidentiality Agreement or NDA’s
- Data protection policies/GDPR policies
- Memorandum of Understanding
- Memorandum of Association & Articles of Association
- Shareholders’ Agreement
- Non-disclosure Agreement
- Directors’ Service Agreement
- Employment Agreement
- Tax Records
- Cash flow statements
These documents are highly important and must be kept secure, a potential data leak poses external threats that can be extremely hard for a business to manage. Business plans and contracts are highly confidential pieces of corporate and personal information. An exposure to these legal documents is a GDPR data breach and poses heavy sanctions and fines to a business.
Legal documents should always be stored in a safe and secure location, copies and backups of each document should be made but the original copy should always be retained. Storing these documents internally can be suitable for most business, however storing a copy externally as a backup is also a suitable option and means that if the document is damaged or lost internally, your legal documentation is stored securely with an external provider.
If your business is holding on to personal client data, you must tell these people that the data being held can be destroyed upon their request, and that they can also request that this information isn’t used for selected reasons and purposes.
How long must legal documents be kept for?
Important legal and financial documents must be retained for at least six years, after this time period they can be securely destroyed, however documents must be retained for longer if your business is under a legal investigation.
Why are legal documents important?
While ensuring that your legal documentation is up-to-date, correct, and properly secured is a time consuming and resource intensive task, it must be done. If business’ documents are not correct, then the business could face fines or even investigation.
Other reasons why it’s important to maintain the integrity of your legal documentations is to keep robust records of business operations. Keeping records of things like employee payroll, contracts, and cash flow statements can help avoid the aforementioned fines as well as support claims in the event of prosecution.
What is legal document security?
Legal document security is effectively storing physical and digital legal documents and keeping these safe from potential data breaches or exposure.
It was reported in 2018 that over 80% of the top 200 UK law firms were exposed to at least one vulnerability, the risk of having documents accessed and exposed leads to a loss of clients and substantial business penalties.
How can my business store legal documents safely?
Digital storage is an ever growing system and is now the go to solution for modern businesses, but these storage systems can be prone to data hacks and breaches which could have a devastating impact upon a business’s GDPR policy and the people at potential risk of data loss and exposure.
When storing documents digitally, it is sensible to store similar or related documents together, this makes them far easier to find and access. Your business must only allow authorised access to view these legal documents. Not everyone will have the same right to view personal or business information, so permission must only be granted to those who require it, such as business owners, directors and management.
Secure software and encryption is essential and must always be considered. Making it hard to access cloud based documents will reduce the risk of being targeted from data hackers. Training staff on data security will show them how to handle and access data while also helping staff identify possible data breaches and exposure to external threats.
Secure archive storage is equally as important and must be considered when maintaining high levels of legal document security. External storage provides many benefits to a business, it allows for a clutter free office and reduces the risk of legal documents being accessed or damaged. Documents stored externally also reduces the risk of legal paperwork being seen by any employee, limiting who can access the external documents also reduces this risk of data outbreaks.
Risk of damage and theft is also reduced, offices may be targets for theft and having highly important legal documents stored externally increases legal document security and reduces the risk of these documents being in the wrong hands.
How to Dispose of Legal Documents
When it comes to disposing of legal documents they need to be destroyed beyond reconstruction, the most secure way is to shred these documents. When a legal document can be shredded, this should be a priority, leaving the document around the office or in a shredding bin exposes it to be seen by unauthorised employees.
Benefits of digitising legal business documents
Digitising business documentation has wide range benefits from operational to an individual basis. Having digital copies of your documents that are stored in the cloud allows access at any time from virtually anywhere while simultaneously keeping them secure and GDPR compliant.
Not only can digitising increase the security of your business’ important documents but it can also help improve the organisation in your office space. Digitising reduces the need to store physical copies of documents which can help declutter office storage and improve the level of organisation within those spaces.
Is your business requiring legal document storage?
If you feel that your business would benefit from secure external legal document storage and management, please contact our friendly team today! Our dedicated team at RADS are happy to answer any questions, explain our process and any additional legal document services that we can provide to your business.