If you ask around, keeping track of client files is somewhat important. A few months after you finish up a case, though, you are often stuck with a pile of papers that have no other use except staple practice or wrapping last minute gifts. You could spend a ton of your downtime handing your dog client documents to chew on as part of regular file destruction, or you could try something attorneys have not yet used more widely: controlled burns.
A controlled burn, also known as hazard reduction burning or Swailing, is used by forestry management officials to reduce fuel buildup for forest fires and to get high from concealed marijuana plants. While client papers are not the same as an established forest, they are made from forest trees. And that’s the connection. Here’s our take on the best way to use controlled burns as part of your file retention and destruction policy.
If your office environment allows it, buy a small copper fire pit or chiminea and put it outside in the back parking lot. Add a cooler of beer, brats, a beanbag toss and a box of old client documents, and you’ve got the law firm equivalent of an Green Bay Packers tailgate party. Live it up. Shout out your client names as you throw their files into the fire pit. Take a swig in honor of opposing counsel. It’s all good, dawg.
Though you may not realize it, grilling is a form of controlled burn. While the burn is usually intended for hot dogs, burgers, and steaks, it can also be used as an opportunity to burn client files. When you have the grill nice and hot, throw on a few client papers to get the grill truly fired up. Once it’s going strong, feed the grill some papers every 2-3 minutes. For added smokiness and flavor, soak the papers in bourbon beforehand and throw them in one at a time. Mmmm.
Nothing is better than sitting around a hearty campfire telling old stories. With client files, not only do you have fuel for the fire, but you have fuel to jog your memory. Bring out a file and tell your family stories about the client and matter (“and then, get this, we filed a 35 page motion to compel on Friday at 4:00! You should have heard Bob Carson yelling on the phone just after the fax went through!”).
If you have a lot of client papers to destroy, look for homecoming bonfires in the fall. Typically, you’ll find a slew of bonfires in your town, and most of them need cheap fuel. Introduce yourself to the bonfire organizers. Tell them that you are a lawyer and would like to burn a few dozen boxes of evidence and client files in the bonfire. More likely than not, they’ll oblige, especially if you offer a small donation to the local booster club or agree to be the homecoming marshall.
As you can see, controlled burns are a great and inexpensive way to get rid of pesky client files. No need to contract out for a dumpster and dump the files. Just fire up the grill, take out a box of client documents, and burn, baby, burn.