Legal Consumer Tip #1 – Take Notes

Dear legal consumers,

We ran across a very interesting blog post by Eric Cooperstein, a Minnesota lawyer who defends attorneys facing ethics complaints and fee disputes.  On Lawyerist.com: (law-yer-ist) n. The lawyering survival guide, Mr. Cooperstein posted Avoid Ethics Complaints by Taking Notes, http://lawyerist.com/avoid-ethics-complaints/, in which he provides lawyers the “tip[ ] & trick[ ]” that they should always take notes of conversations and meetings with clients.

Mr. Cooperstein writes:

I do not doubt my [attorney] clients when they assure me that there were multiple phone calls with the client and at least a couple of meetings, but there are no specific records of those contacts: when they took place, what was said, how long they lasted. The ethics investigation is suddenly at risk of being reduced to a battle between ‘Did not!’ and ‘Did so!’ The disgruntled client may be regarded as having a legitimate gripe.

Mr. Cooperstein goes on to advise the legal community:

The value of taking notes should not be underestimated.  Beyond providing a first line of defense against a client’s ethics complaint, notes can be helpful in tracking previous conversations with a client.

This advice should be heeded by legal consumers as well.  For every telephone call and meeting, legal consumers should note the subjects discussed and details of the conversation, including:

  • the name of the attorney(s) or staff person(s)
  • the beginning and ending time of the conversation
  • what questions were asked and what answers were given
  • what advice the attorney provided
  • what follow-up and timelines were agreed upon

That way, if there is ever an issue about the amount of time an attorney billed for client communication or what the attorney advised, legal consumers would have their own records to consult and substantiate any dispute they may have.

Just as Mr. Cooperstein advises his lawyer clients, a savvy legal consumer takes notes to protect themselves.  And that is a tip, not a trick.

You’ve got options.  The Center for Legal Practice Reform can help you navigate the attorney/client relationship and level the playing field.  Call LPR today for a free consultation – (301) 351-7970. 

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