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TIP # 61 Tips When Giving Independent Legal Advice (ILA)

In Webb v Tomlinson2006 CanLII 18192 (ON S.C.), a former client brought a negligence claim against a lawyer, but because the lawyer used an ILA checklist and their file was well documented, they were able to successfully defend the action.

While you may meet with an ILA client for only a short time, they are as much a client as one you might represent over a longer period of time. To reduce your risk of a negligence claim, you should follow the same steps and processes you normally follow on intake, during representation, and on file closing. It’s important to take detailed notes of the steps taken, documentation reviewed, advice given and instructions received. Remember to keep time and billing records.

You should be prepared to spend time analyzing, listening, communicating, documenting your advice given and instructions received if you agree to provide ILA. As with all matters, before you agree to accept a matter, first ask yourself:

  • Is this a client and matter one I want to accept?
  • Am I competent in the practice area?
  • Do I have the time required to spend on the matter?
  • Do I have enough information on the matter?
  • Is the client prepared to pay for the time that I believe is necessary to provide competent advice?

If the answer is no to any one of these questions, you should decline representation.

As we have stressed many times, document, document, document your file! Consider that your advice may be called into question and that you may be revisiting the matter in the future as a defendant and witness.