Developing the Habit of Memorializing Discussions With Notes and Emails or Letters Is a Professional Must Do Task
By: Scott McEachern, legal practitioner coach
A most dangerous conduct, dangerous in the context of risk of an errors & omissions claims, a complaint to the Law Society, a disgruntled client, or embarrassment with a Judge while in court, is the conduct of failing to have written support to confirm the substance of previous discussion. While the importance of memorializing a discussion is often emphasized, the reminder herein further emphasizes the importance of doing so even when the conversation seems trivial and unimportant.
Making Good Habits
A good discussion note is memorialized contemporaneously, meaning at the same time as the discussion occurs or immediately after a discussion. Accordingly, a professional knows that the habit of good note making should involve the making of notes, even if just chicken scratch bullet points, during a conversation. Following the discussion, the professional can then review the chicken-scratch note and rewrite such in an expanded and more legible and literate manner; however, the chicken-scratch note serves to remind of the details, and even the order of details, during the discussion. Subsequently, the notes, both the final note as well as the chicken-scratch note, should be added to the relevant file for future reference if required.
In addition to making good notes for internal use or for future reference if the details of a conversation are ever challenged, a conversation confirming email or letter, where appropriate, is always best. A professional will confirm conversations using a memorializing email or letter that, typically, begins with As per our conversation a few moments ago, blah blah blah.. Of course, a busy professional may prefer to have an assistant send such an email or letter on behalf of the professional so to save time and ensure work efficiency as well as to protect against the risk that the professional may become a witness to a client proceeding and thereby need to withdraw from representation.
Make Conversation Note
Gather bullet-point form details of the conversation during, being contemporaneously, the actual conversation.
This note, due to the speed of the conversation, will often result in a chicken-scratch, thus very genuine, albeit sometimes vague, summary of the discussion details.
Make Subsequent Note
When the conversation ends, immediately after the conversation ends, without allowing for any interruptions, prepare a note that provides a clear and cogent detailing of the discussion.
Memorialize Your Discussion
Following a conversation, whether by phone or in person, and whether obviously important or seemingly inoccuous, send an email or letter to confirm the statements exchanged during the discussion.