A&O loses 170,000 files in warehouse inferno

A huge warehouse blaze in East London has destroyed hundreds of thousands of legal documents belonging to a number of top City firms.

Allen & Overy (A&O), Norton Rose and Simmons & Simmons lost a huge number of files in last Wednesday night’s (12 July) fire at a document storage warehouse belonging to Canada’s Iron Mountain, on Twelvetrees Crescent in Bromley-by-Bow.

As The Lawyer went to press, the firms were still assessing the extent of the damage and were waiting for Iron Mountain to give them inventories. However, A&O has lost approximately 170,000 documents, while Norton Rose is understood to have had around 7,000 files destroyed.

The incident is problematic for A&O because it is currently on a massive archiving drive in preparation for its move to Spitalfields market later in the year, so the archive files could relate to recent deals or cases.

Most firms now store documents electronically. However, losing documents relating to a deal might prove to be a headache in the event of a negligence claim being brought against the lawyers, as it is more difficult to store marked-up documents electronically.

The Law Society recommends that law firms should retain files for the statute of limitations (which is at least six years) plus six months.

A&O head of safety and security Joe Greenan said: “Key files for current matters are stored in-house and, for the past two to three years, our virtual filing system has scanned and electronically recorded all paperwork. The fire is not hindering our normal business operations in any way and clients should not be concerned.”

Norton Rose stores its documents across 14 separate sites. It has also insured itself against the possibility of future terrorist attacks by investing around £5m in a fully staffed duplicate IT centre in Uxbridge. Duplicate copies of all emails and documents sent through Norton Rose’s London office will be stored at the centre.

Simmons has some documents at the warehouse but moved the bulk of them to another facility some time ago.