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Web Archiving and Law Firm Compliance

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When it comes to the legal industry, some states require law firms to archive their websites to meet records retention best practices or compliance requirements. Being able to produce an evidentiary-quality replica of a law firm’s website is increasingly becoming an industry best practice. Even states that do not require web archiving for compliance are now seemingly moving in that direction.

An Ever-Changing Entity

Preserving the content of a website sounds deceptively simple but, in practice, can be extremely complex. A website is not a static creation like a flyer, pamphlet, billboard or television spot—it is a dynamic entity with content that evolves and changes over time. Sites that maintain active news feeds, media pages or blogs may have new content every day, or even several times each day.

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ABA Model Rules

The American Bar Association has set forth Model Rules of Professional Conduct to serve as a guide for ethics rules at the state level. Most states have adopted some version of these rules to guide the practice of law in that state.

According to most of these rules, law firm websites are considered a form of advertising and must meet various guidelines, such as stating the geographic location of the firm’s principal place of practice.

Most versions of these ethics rules require law firms to retain copies of advertising materials for a specified amount of time. Pennsylvania, for example, requires materials to be kept for two years after their last usage. Some states require that firms furnish an archival copy of their websites to the bar association, and in some cases a law firm may have to retain a copy of its website for as many as three years.

New York’s requirements are even stricter. Its Rules of Professional Conduct hold that a copy of the contents of a law firm website must be “preserved” upon initial publication, any major web site redesign, or a meaningful and extensive content change, but no less frequently than once every 90 days.

Some law firms maintain a physical file with hard copies of each individual page of the website, arranged in chronological order. For a firm with significant content output, however, such a system quickly becomes cumbersome and time-consuming.

Consider Web Archiving

Web archiving solutions were developed to make the process of preserving websites much quicker, more efficient and less prone to errors. An interactive web archive also preserves multimedia content, such as audio or video recordings, that a paper-based archive cannot. The complete series of archives or the archive for a particular date in the website’s history is easy to export for review by firm personnel or a third party.

Web archiving solutions are available to meet the needs of any size law firm, with even the most complex websites. 



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