Developing Checklists Of Procedures For Legal Practice Issues – Part One
The practice of law requires a long list of procedural and analytical exercises before any client matter may move forward. While the information collected through these exercises may be overwhelming, the implementation of checklists within a law practice ensures that important information is processed, organized, and utilized effectively and efficiently.
Checklists offer the following advantages:
- Checklists may help an attorney mitigate malpractice risks and comply with any ethical obligations.
- Checklists reduce the resources necessary to train employees and help orient new employees about the firm’s practices, policies, and goals.
- Checklists eliminate the potential for errors and avoid missing deadlines and other important procedural mandates.
- Checklists ensure that critical actions are taken, research is completed, and documents are timely prepared or obtained.
The following are examples of checklists that may be useful to a law practice:
*Opening client files
Once an attorney is retained or engaged by a client, certain prerequisites must occur before the attorney may serve the client. Bringing new clients onboard may take more than a little time. When a new client file is opened, a detailed step-by-step procedure should always be painstakingly followed by administrative staff. Directions should be simple, clear, and facilitate the delegation of administrative tasks to staff members appropriately.
*Checking for conflicts of interest
One of the most common mistakes made by attorneys is the failure to perceive conflicts of interest between a client and the firm. The result may have potentially catastrophic financial effects on a law firm if such failure results in a legal malpractice claim. Law firms must have strict, comprehensive policies and procedures in place to identify any potential conflicts. Once a conflict is discovered after representation has begun, the harm may be irreversible.
Most attorneys have never worked with any type of account that closely resembles a trust account (IOLTA) before they are required to utilize such an account themselves. It is important to note here that the mismanagement of client funds may have serious consequences for attorneys that include suspension or even disbarment for egregious violations related to such funds. The use of a checklist for dealing with all client monies helps ensure that they are properly deposited into a trust account. A checklist also helps verify the processing of the receipt of any funds correctly, while serving to verify the appropriate management of the account.
Checklists perform the crucial function of setting forth mandatory requirements and standardizing other necessary protocols. The use of checklists to follow steps developed to complete a recurring process improves efficiency and reduces the potential for mistakes.
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