You know that the best practice is to document your file, and yet year after year we see claims which are the result of lawyers failing to do just that.  The key is to change your behaviour – so how can you do that? 

Helpful Tips

  • Start managing your records when the file is opened-have a file retention policy and abide by it
  • Have and use retainer letters
  • Have and use declination letters
  • Confirm instructions given
  • Document your file, instructions given and received, conversations involving anyone connected with the file
  • Take and keep good notes at meetings, conversations, instructions, inquiries.
  • Have clients confirm instructions in writing
  • Get written instructions e.g.: release of holdback funds for deficiencies, distribution of sale proceeds
  • When your client does not follow your advice put that advice in writing and have them acknowledge the advice in writing.  Keep this documentation
  • Provide your client copies of all pleadings and correspondence; provide them with their own file to hold this documentation
  • Maintain a record of your e-mails to clients
  • Emails and other communications-be professional and courteous at all times
  • Retain the file upon completion of matter in accordance with your firm’s file retention policy
  • Retain a copy of the file if the matter is transferred or the file delivered to the client

Memos to File

There is no one way to document your file, but feel free to use one of these forms or to create your own.  The key is to do it! 

File Notes – version one

File Notes – version two

Meeting Notes

Telephone/Personal Exchange