A well-documented file is critical to the successful defense of a malpractice claim against you. In documenting your file, prepare and retain detailed notes from meetings, relevant conversations and of instructions received. Keep copies of emails (and attachments) associated with the file. When your client refuses your advice, document this in writing to your client and your file. Send regular status updates and always use file closing letters confirming the end of representation. Keep your personal notes and all relevant documentation when culling a file.
If, at any time, your client wants the file transferred to another lawyer, or made available for pickup, be sure to also retain a copy of the file for yourself, and get a receipt with a legible signature from the person picking up the file. If it’s not the client, make sure authorization to release the file to someone else, signed by the client, is in the copy you keep. Termination of your retainer by a client is often an indication of dissatisfaction with your services. Having a copy of the file will be crucial in defending against a negligence claim or discipline complaint that a dissatisfied client might make against you.
This week’s tip, again from our Taste of ABA TECHSHOW Dinner, is from Deborah E. Gillis, QC, a lawyer and consultant in Bedford, NS.