I will carefully document instructions, advice and steps taken: Sometimes claims against corporate lawyers are a result of an incomplete or improperly drafted document or other mistake by the lawyer, but in many cases there is simply a dispute over what was said and done or not said and done, or confusion over who was to look after which tasks. Taking detailed notes and documenting conversations with the client helps avoid this, as does using LAWPRO’s new “Checklist for Commercial Transactions”.
I will not dabble in areas outside my expertise: Corporate and commercial law is complex and diverse, so don’t stray outside your area of expertise. If necessary, retain the services of an expert in specialist areas like franchise law, IP or tax if you don’t have thorough knowledge of those fields.
I will follow the firm’s conflict checking system and take action on conflicts: Most law firms now have rigorous conflicts checking systems in place, and they do a good job of catching potential conflicts. The problem is that often these warnings are ignored because of poor judgement or greed. Listen to your instincts, and ask yourself “who is my client?” You can’t always objectively judge your own conflicts, so get the opinion of someone outside the matter. If there’s a conflict, decline the retainer even if it means turning down work for a good client or turning down substantial fees.
I will take the time to catch all the details and do the job right: Whether it is misreading (or not reading) information on a corporate document, not doing a title search on a corporate lease matter, or failing to ensure that two merged corporations don’t lose a ‘grandfathered’ exemption, rushing or taking shortcuts can come back to haunt you. Take the time to do the job right, even if it takes a bit longer or involves coming back on another day.
These resolutions were taken from “New Year’s resolutions for a better practice and a new you” which can be found in the December edition of LAWPRO Magazine.