4.  Record Storage

a)  Three Years of Current Records

Sometimes storage of multiple years of accounting records becomes cumbersome. Should you want to keep these records in a place other than your office, keep in mind that you must maintain the most recent three years at your chief place of practice in Manitoba, unless otherwise authorized by the Law Society [Rule 5-54(2)].

b)  Ten Years of Historical Records

As for older records, all trust books, records and accounts (including supporting documentation) must be kept for no less than ten years [Rule 5-54(1)(a)].

c)  Electronic Storage

Provided that the requirements outlined below are met, the following are acceptable alternatives to paper storage of records [Rules 5-43(2), 5-43(5) and 55-54(1)(b)]:

Book of Original EntrySave in a universally readable format immediately after each month end
Monthly Trust Reconciliation (and related supporting documents) Save in a universally readable format no later than the last day of the subsequent month
Client ledger upon closure of fileElectronic copy in a universally readable format on the electronic file
Monthly bank statements and cheque images (trust and general bank accounts)Save in a universally readable format no later than the last day of the subsequent month end
Purging of electronic records Save in a universally readable format
** 1  It is important to note that monthly bank statements and cheque images saved electronically must reside on the law firm’s electronic storage system. It is not acceptable to rely on your savings institution’s online banking system as the sole storage location.

Please note the following requirements:

i.  Files must be in universally readable format

What does ‘universally readable format’ mean? It means that the Law Society is not requiring a particular format be used (such as PDF), but whatever format is being used must be viewable easily on other computers. So, saving a PC Law data file that must use PC Law to read the report is not a universally readable format, whereas printing or saving a PC Law report to PDF format is considered universally readable.

ii.  Minimum 10 year retention period of both electronic and paper records

Backup requirements: a backup copy of the electronic records must be updated at least monthly and stored in a secure manner in an off-site location.

iii.  Legibility

As documents stored electronically must be of sufficient resolution or quality to be legible, all documents should be reviewed at the time of electronic storage to ensure legibility of information.
Firms choosing to electronically store documents should be aware that legibility can be impacted by factors that include shading on reports (such as PC Law or others), use of gel pens or colour paper stock.

iv. Storage and Access

The electronic records must be organized and stored in a systematic fashion.

The electronic records must be provided upon request to the Law Society, which may include providing an auditor with read-only access to the electronic storage system while at your office, providing the documents in soft copy (such as on a flash drive), or printing a hard copy.

PRACTICE TIP:

A backup copy of the electronic records must also be made, at least monthly, and stored securely off-site. While these are the minimum requirements, many members choose to back-up more frequently, as it can be costly and time-consuming to recreate accounting records after the data is lost. It is also a good idea to test the back up regularly to ensure it is functioning as you expect. Some members have needed to rely upon their back up copy due to a system failure, only to discover it wasn’t working properly and therefore of little to no value at all.