We’re trying to move to a paperless office. Do we need to retain paper copies of signed contracts?
The federal government and many states have adopted the Uniform Photographic Copies of Business and Public Records as Evidence Act. The federal version of this law says that if an organization, in the regular course of business, makes a copy which “accurately reproduces” the original, then “the original may be destroyed in the regular course of business unless its preservation is required by law. Such reproduction, when satisfactorily identified, is as admissible in evidence as the original itself in any judicial or administrative proceeding whether the original is in existence or not….” 28 U.S.C. §1732.
Thus, you have to check state law to see if the Uniform act has been adopted. If your state has adopted the Uniform act or a similar act, and if there is no state law that requires you to retain signed originals of certain business records, then you may convert signed contracts to electronic form and dispose of the paper copy. Of course, to be on the safe side, it would be a good idea to retain paper copies of particularly important documents, such as the organization’s Articles of Incorporation, merger agreements, high-dollar contracts, and so on.