Loss Prevention Tip #31
A Few Good Tips
It is important to adequately document your file. Keep your client advised of what you’re doing. Copy him/her with virtually everything. Confirm in writing instructions received and advice given. Whenever your client fails to follow your advice, document that in writing and keep that file and documentation indefinitely. Without such documentation it is extremely difficult, if not impossible to defend a negligence claim.
When assuming carriage of a matter from another lawyer, don’t assume that all necessary steps to date have been taken by the previous lawyer. Review the file carefully, in its entirety, to confirm that all steps have been taken and deadlines met. This should be your procedure, regardless of whether you take over the file from a lawyer inside or from outside your firm.
Set out clearly what you’re expecting and when you need the task completed. The “to do” or task function on your software program will allow you to detail what needs to be done, to prioritize tasks, assign a due date and delegate the task to someone else. You can keep track of the task as it also remains on your to-do list until removed by you. Have a backup system in place for when you and/or your regular staff are away from the office, either because of illness or holiday.
Have a backup system in place for when your regular assistant is away from the office. Be particularly vigilant of work completed by a fill-in. Deadlines are often missed and other mistakes made when someone not familiar with the file is filling in for your regular assistant. Also, on a long-term basis, take the time to document and cross-train employees on critical office duties and learn them yourself. This will help to ensure that your practice will continue to run smoothly when a key employee is absent or departs with little or no notice.
Manage files and deadlines by conducting regular file reviews. A good management software program will assist you in setting up timelines.
Remember that sending an email or fax does not guarantee that it has been received. Educate your staff to read the fax transmission notice to confirm that transmission was successful. Emails may not have been received or read. Have a system in place for you or your assistant to follow up by phone, especially when the communication is time sensitive.
Don’t dabble in areas of law in which you do not have expertise. Refer the matter to someone who practices in that area. It will save you a lot of time and grief.