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Archive for ‘Reading: Recommended’

Resolutions for Better Matter and File Management

Effective file management provides the foundation for timely, valuable client service and appropriate management of client matters. Here are some resolutions to help you complete the critical steps in file management:

  • I will complete a conflicts check before opening a file: Conflicts of interest can lead to ugly and expensive malpractice claims. The best time to catch and avoid a conflicts claim is during a thorough conflicts search before a file is opened. A thorough search looks for conflicts involving both the client(s) and others connected with a matter.
  • I will open a file for every matter I handle
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Posted in: Reading: Recommended

Resolutions to Better Set and Control Client Expectations

Clients can be demanding and will sometimes have expectations that will be unreasonable. Unmet expectations, even if they are totally unreasonable, are a recipe for unhappy clients. Setting and controlling client expectations is one of the best things you can do to ensure that you have a happy and satisfied client at each stage and the conclusion of a matter. Follow these resolutions to better set and control your clients’ expectations:

  • I will carefully explain how the matter will proceed: While you may have handled a particular type of matter hundreds of times before, remember that your client is
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Posted in: Reading: Recommended

Resolutions to Avoid Real Estate Claims

  • I will ensure I meet with my clients in person at least once: In most real estate practices the staff handle many aspects of the client’s matter. However, ultimate responsibility still lies with the supervising lawyer. Take the time to meet with the client in person to review the transaction and understand the client instructions, particularly with respect to the client’s intended uses of the property. Not every matter is straightforward, and you don’t want to have to be addressing a problem that was only noticed the day the deal is to be closed, or never noticed at all.
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Posted in: Reading: Recommended

Resolutions to Better Document Your Files

You can still find yourself being sued for malpractice, even if you have done everything correctly. A well-documented file can help to explain what work was done or to justify an account and can be a lifesaver when it comes to defending a malpractice claim. A good paper trail can help show what work was done on a file long after your direct and specific memories of the file have faded. Here are some resolutions you can make to help you keep a better-documented file:

  • I will document the important conversations and communications on my files: It is just
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Posted in: Reading: Recommended

Resolutions to Avoid Corporate/commercial Claims

  • 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
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    Posted in: Reading: Recommended

    Resolutions to Avoid Doing Things That Annoy Clients the Most

    Clients will, understandably, get upset if they are treated badly or confronted with surprises. Make sure you appreciate how your words, actions, or inactions can annoy or even distress your clients. Here are some resolutions you can make to avoid doing the most common things lawyers do that annoy clients:

    • I will promptly return phone calls: Unacknowledged or unreturned phone calls are some of the most common complaints about lawyers. To avoid these problems, set and control client expectations at the very start of the relationship. Establish a reasonable policy on how quickly calls will be returned (e.g., within
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    Posted in: Reading: Recommended

    Resolutions to Avoid Family Law Claims

    • I will make better use of checklists and reporting letters: Family law involves complex documents that deal with complicated issues involving emotional clients. There are many risks of errors by the lawyer, and misunderstandings by the client. LAWPRO’s new Domestic Contracts Matter Toolkit has checklists and forms that contain points and questions lawyers should systematically consider as they conduct the initial interview on a domestic contract matter and when they meet with the client to review and sign the document. And a final reporting letter detailing what you did and what advice you gave can be a lifesaver in
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    Posted in: Reading: Recommended

    Resolutions to Avoid Fee Disputes (And Make More Money)

    Fees disputes commonly lead to unpaid accounts, Law Society complaints and/or malpractice claims. For these reasons you should do your best to avoid fee disputes with your clients. Here are some simple resolutions that will help you accomplish this:

    • I will get a sufficient retainer at the start of a matter: At the start of the matter ask for a retainer that is sufficient to do all of the initial work on the matter. Ask for a retainer that will cover all the work – asking for less gives the client unrealistic expectations about fees and means you are
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    Posted in: Practice of Law: Practice Management, Reading: Recommended

    Resolutions to Avoid Wills and Estates Claims

  • I will ask more probing questions when meeting with a client to prepare a will: Too many lawyers are not asking the questions that could uncover facts that could cause problems later, or making clear to the client what information they need to provide. Was there a prior will? Are all the beneficiaries identified correctly? What about gift-overs? Were all assets identified, and how are they registered? Was there a previous marriage? Ask, ask, ask. And then do a reporting letter to confirm everything that was discussed.
  • I will not act for family members or friends: We see
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    Posted in: Reading: Recommended

    Resolutions to Capture More Time (And Make More Money)

    With technology and a few tricks, you can increase your billable time by catching more of the actual time you spend on tasks. This gives you more time to bill, which will ultimately transfer to a better bottom line. Here are some of the best ways you can use technology to capture and bill more time:

    • I will use electronic timesheets and enter my own time: Paper timesheets are error-prone and inefficient because they require double entry. The efficiency, extra speed, and greater accuracy of entering your own time on electronic timesheets make this resolution a no-brainer.
    • I will
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    Posted in: Reading: Recommended

    Seven New Years Resolutions for a Better Practice

    • I will fire my worst client: This client is the one that calls you almost every day, sends you hourly emails, never has enough for a retainer and bickers about paying your fees. When ending the retainer, make sure you comply with the Rules of Professional Conduct.
    • I will book my vacation: Your body and mind need a vacation and some downtime. Grab your calendar and block off two weeks for a vacation. Make sure to coordinate with your spouse/significant other. Under no circumstances do you book anything during those two weeks. Schedule it now and make
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    Posted in: Reading: Recommended

    Resolutions to Avoid Criminal Law Claims

    • I will take the time to ensure the client understands my recommendations: Failing to effectively communicate with the client is just as much a claims pitfall in criminal law as in other areas. This could be because of the rushed nature of many “courthouse steps” conversations, or the fact that the lawyer’s years of experience on cases may obscure the fact that the client doesn’t fully understand the course of action the lawyer recommends. There is a risk that clients may later regret their choices and make a claim against the lawyer. To guard against this, be sure to
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    Posted in: Practice of Law, Reading: Recommended