Lawyeringlaw.com Tip of the Month

Tip for December 2009

Document Your File

In a legal malpractice action, fee dispute or disciplinary proceeding related to the services a lawyer provided to a client, the lawyer's file is usually a critical piece of evidence.  Lawyers are in the enviable position of being able to control how this evidence will look.  It is important that the file contain written records of all important communications with the client and the adverse party, beginning with the engagement agreement and ending with the file closure letter.  The work that the lawyer did on behalf of the client should be visible at least to the extent of a memorandum to the file of the work that was done.  Client decisions should be memorialized in a writing, preferably a letter to the client confirming the decision.  Documenting the file is important because a trier of fact does not have to believe that a lawyer did the work he or she claimed to have done, when there is nothing in the file to corroborate the lawyer's claim.