Law Firms

Dewey's Dilemma: To Shred, or Not to Shred? And Who Pays for Shredding or Continued Storage?


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After a century in business, as far as its predecessor law firms are concerned, Dewey & LeBoeuf has a lot of client files in its possession.

More than 100,000 boxes of documents are stored in one Brooklyn, N.Y., facility. Hundreds of thousands more can be found in locations stretching over 12 countries. And the law firm itself admits that it’s not certain where all of Dewey’s old files can be found and who owns them, Reuters reports.

Meanwhile, as the firm winds up its operations in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceeding, a big-bucks issue looms. The firm is already $500,000 in the red on storage fees and wants to stop the bleeding. So it is proposing to give 4,500 clients 75 days to collect their files, then discard the rest.

But that plan has raised a clamor of objections, from those concerned that confidential information including contracts, private financial data and trade secrets might be compromised if the files aren’t shredded first. The problem is, shredding would also cost a significant amount of money, and it’s not clear how that cost would be covered.

Judge Martin Glenn sees the issue and is concerned. “There’d be nothing stopping anybody from sending these files to The New York Times,” he said at a Monday hearing in federal bankruptcy court in Manhattan. “That really bothers me.”

Related coverage: “Dewey Files for Bankruptcy, Lists More than $300M in Debt” “Dewey Seeks Bankruptcy Judge OK to Pay Remaining Workers Up to $450K in ‘Morale’ Bonuses” “Dewey & LeBoeuf Estate Seeks $103.6M Clawback From Bankrupt Firm’s Former Partners”

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