The State Bar Association of North Dakota Fall 2015 Gavel Magazine - Page 17

This documentation not only confirms your understanding of what the client’s needs are, thus avoiding the running with assumptions misstep, but can even be an opportunity to ask if there is anything else you might be able to assist the client with. What harm is there in asking for additional work? Given what we’re seeing in claims coupled with more and more attorneys moving into limited scope representation, I would also encourage you to consider documenting what you are not going to do. If there happens to be a workman’s comp. component to a personal injury claim and you have no intention of handling that piece, put it in writing! The same could be said for those of you who handle divorces or obtain large settlements of any type but also have no intention of advising those clients as to any tax ramifications that might arise. If you are only being retained to provide a second opinion, document that you have no obligation to file suit on the client’s behalf. It’s all about documenting that the client was made aware of what you will and will not be doing. Further, where called for, you might also consider documenting that you advised them to seek the services of someone who can assist them on those issues that you won’t be. Finally, it is always a good idea to document that the representation has ended and inform the client that the file is about to be closed, or that the file relative to a particular matter for an on-going client will be closed. A letter of closure sent at the conclusion of representation can meet this need quite effectively. At its most basic level this letter simply confirms for the client that everything you said you would do has now been completed. It is one more way to make certain that no assumptions are in play on either side. Of course, the letter of closure is also a way to inform the client of your file retention policy, can serve as a cover letter for the return of original documents to the client, assists in marketing by giving you a chance to say thanks for the business, and is one more opportunity to ask for additional work with a statement as simple as “please don’t hesitate to contact me if there is anything else I might be able to assist you with.” All of this speaks to the need to play it safe when it comes to documenting scope of representation. Clients are far less able to allege that their understanding of scope of representation was far broader than what yours was; and here’s the rub. Should scope ever be an issue in a malpractice claim and you find yourself in a word against word dispute with the client as to just what your scope was, you’ve got a serious problem. We all know that attorneys don’t fare well in word against word disputes in the malpractice arena. For this reason alone, the time spent documenting scope at the beginning and at the end of representation is well worth it. Try to get into a regular and consistent practice of doing so because claims attorneys will look for these types of documents in every claim file that comes in. They are that important. A resource for your clients. Assurance for you. When you refer your clients to Bremer for Wealth Management Services, know with confidence they will be treated with the same respect and integrity you provide. At Bremer, our first and only goal is meeting your clients’ objectives. From Trusts and Investment Management to complex Farm Management Services, Bremer provides a resource for your clients and assurance for you. Cal X\