The Legal Records at Risk (LRAR) project at the IALS was set up to investigate the findings of previous studies, including the British Records Association (BRA) report on Records at Risk (2011), that significant records of many institutions specialised to law (ISLs) are at risk, especially because of recent developments in legal services, IT, economy and globalisation. Many records are now “born digital” and many more paper records are being digitised. New technology may solve some problems (eg storage), but is creating new issues (eg digital continuity).
The terms of reference of the project were:
- To broaden the concept of "legal" records from the traditional definition of them as court records or formal documents such as deeds to records of institutions specialized to law (ISLs), including business records, mainly in the private sector. Our definition is wide and includes records of all the main types of providers of legal services (including law firms, legal executives, patent agents, licensed conveyancers, court interpreters), arbitration records and the records of ancillary bodies such as legal stationers and law publishers.
- To identify legal records of potential research value.
- To identify legal records of potential value which may be at risk through neglect, digital obsolescence, lack of interest or lack of resources to preserve and provide access to the records.
- To provide generic advice and guidance to information owners. To identify potential repositories for legal records of research value.
- To facilitate the process by which information owners reach agreement to deposit with or donate records to those repositories.
The project did not collect records but acted as a conduit through which legal records of value (in all formats and media) are identified, preserved and made available for research. We also undertook case studies, provided expert advice and referrals and held specialist seminars on such matters as:
- Listing and cataloguing legal records.
- Developing legal records retention and disposal schedules.
- Digital archiving and digital continuity of legal records
To encourage benchmarking and collaboration among legal practitioners and the custodians of their records we also, with the agreement of the companies and institutions concerned, published examples of:
- Best practice.
- Gaps in knowledge/expertise (eg around archiving and digital continuity).
- Practical issues caused by lack of resources.
- Availability of repositories (physical and digital).
The project was led by Clare Cowling, an experienced archivist/records manager and Associate Research Fellow of the Institute. You can contact Clare at email@example.com
The project has been made possible by a generous philanthropic donation.
Legal Records at Risk: A strategy for safeguarding our legal heritage
Published: July 2019
Open Access edition free to read online and download from OBserving Law in the School of Advanced Study's Humanities Digital Library
Why do so few institutions in the legal sector have professional records managers or archivists on their staff?
This book is the culmination of a three year project by experienced archivist and records managers on private sector legal records at risk in England at Wales. It summarises the work of the Legal Records at Risk (LRAR) project and its predecessors, diagnoses the problems of preservation of archives in the legal sector in England and Wales and outlines a national strategy for such records.
ISBN 978-1-911507-14-7 (Paperback edition) £40 - order online
ISBN 978-1-911507-15-4 (PDF) - Open Access PDF version in the Humanities Digital Library