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By: Greg Fayard
“Boy, I wish that was in writing!”
Having defended scores of attorneys over the years, more often than not, I wish my lawyer-client had either better documented his or her file, or memorialized a key conversation. It certainly helps defending legal malpractice claims when a pivotal issue is in writing as opposed to merely being oral.
While it is not possible to document every detail in a legal matter, having the mindset of documenting interactions with clients can reduce legal consequences should a client sue. A simple e-mail confirming a conversation, or a time entry stating the substance of a conversation can help in defending a legal malpractice claim. Letters work too, of course, but are more time-consuming. For a key strategy decision in a case, a quick “memo to file” in e-mail form works as well as something more formal. A lawyer’ mindset should be: something in writing is better than nothing in writing.
But writings are not only helpful in “defending” a claim. A contemporaneous writing on a key point or issue in a matter may be enough to dissuade the client from suing in the first place.
In sum: the lawyer who chooses to document a file, over not documenting, no matter how informal, will be in a better position in the event the client is later dissatisfied with the lawyer’s services.
If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Greg Fayard at [email protected].