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To manage risk better a legal practice should implement a process for opening of client files. The statuses of the client's conflict of interest check, identification, capacity and retainer agreement should be easily identifiable as part of the risk management strategy for any legal practice.

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File opening and control of files procedure

  1. 1. File opening and control of files procedure File opening and control of files procedure LAW 9000 – Legal Best Practice Clause 4.2.6.1 Control of matter files 1. Purpose This procedure establishes guidelines for opening and control of matter files. 2. Scope The procedures starts with contacting a potential client for first conflict of interest check and finishes with instructions on storage and access to active files. 3. Persons affected All professional and support staff. 4. Policy The policy of [Practice Name] is to open a separate file for each new matter for new, current and former clients. It is our policy to open a new matter file for “one-time consultations”, even if no work was done or confidential information received,to facilitate conflict checking. 5. Definitions Consultation - the giving of a formal opinion regarding the substance or procedure of the law by a lawyer. It includes “one time” consultation. 6. Responsibilities a. All lawyers and administrative staff are responsible for ensuring compliance to this procedure. b. All lawyers and administrative staff are expected to adhere to the guidelines of this procedure when a client has retained the services of [Practice Name] and a decision has been made to open a matter file. c. The [Name of Person] has authority to open a file. 7. Procedure for opening files a. [Name/Role of support staff] should contact a potential client before the first interview to perform a conflict check. Follow conflict of interest check procedure. b. At the initial interview the interviewing lawyer (the lawyer) should use a blank file prepared ahead of time for each area of law. The blank file should contain the file opening form (the
  2. 2. 2 File opening and control of files procedure Issue Date: 12/04/2014 Author: Val Antoff Review date: 13/04/2017 Approved by: Val Antoff form), procedural checklists, interview forms/questionnaires, and anyother forms or documents needed. c. At the interview the lawyer should take care to correctly identify the client on the form.Follow client identification procedure. d. At the interview the lawyer should also establish client’s capacity and note on the form.Follow establishing of client’s capacity procedure. e. At the interview a lawyer who wishes to open a client’s file must complete the form. f. The lawyer must complete the following fields on the form: For individual clients Name of client Previous name or alias Home address Home phone, mobile number andemail address Occupation Work telephone number and address Alternate addresses or telephone numbers (for keeping contact with some family and criminal clients) Mailing address if different from home address Opposing party name(s) Address of opposing party Phone and/or mobile and/or email of opposing party The opposing lawyer’s name, telephone and fax number Subject matter of the file Matter description – requires short description of matter The interviewing lawyer’s name The date the file is opened Agreed charge out rate Amount of money requested on account Person who took the instructions Any limitation dates Referral sources Client’s capacity For company clients Corporate and business names Any trade or alternative names under which the entity carries on business Names of the parent or controlling shareholder of a corporate client Proper and business names of other relevant affiliated companies
  3. 3. 3 File opening and control of files procedure Issue Date: 12/04/2014 Author: Val Antoff Review date: 13/04/2017 Approved by: Val Antoff Names of officers and directors of the corporate client, any subsidiaries and the parent company Partners’ names of a partnership client g. The lawyer must note any limitation periods on the form and advise client if imminent. h. The lawyer should then do a second conflict of interest check. i. If the result is negative, the lawyer will then prepare a retainer agreement and forward to client for review and signature. j. Once the practice receives the signed retainer agreement and the deposit on account of costs and disbursements then the lawyer will give the form to the staff member responsible for opening files. k. If the form has not been filled init should be returned to the lawyer for completion. l. Before opening the file a search should be performed by the responsible person to identify any requirements for linking files where more than one file is relevant to the client’s matter. m. The responsible person will enter the information in all the appropriate systems: i. file opening book ii. case management system iii. accounting system iv. limitation date system n. The file should be named with the client’s name, followed by a reference and assigned file numbers (or an allocated by the case management system unique identifier). o. The opening form should be fastened to the paper file (or scanned into the client electronic documents file). p. A file cover page will be printed out and stuck on the front of the client paper file. q. The cover page should contain the client’s name, file number, the subject matter of the file and the initials of the acting lawyer, limitation dates or other important time frames, and the client’s address and phone number for easy reference. r. After that all relevant materials will be filed in the newly opened file. s. The file will then be handed to the acting lawyer. t. Every paper file must have as a minimum the following sections: Court documents Correspondence File notes Client documents [Include any regulations or legal profession rules relevant to file opening.] 8. Central file registry and control of files All active files are stored in a [name location]
  4. 4. 4 File opening and control of files procedure Issue Date: 12/04/2014 Author: Val Antoff Review date: 13/04/2017 Approved by: Val Antoff Files should remain in the file storage area at all times unless work is carried out on the file out Files that are currently used should remain on the desk of the lawyer, legal assistant or secretary doing the work Files should be checked in and out using a [name system for checking files in and out] When work is completed, the file should be returned to the file storage and checked in using [name system for checking files in and out] Staff are not permitted to take files home Individual documents should not be separated from the file. If a document must be removed, it should be copied and then returned to the client’s file. [The central file registry section may not be relevant for firms with paperless/electronic files.] 9. Essential quality control A weekly/monthly report will be produced by [Name/Role of person] which will include all newly opened files and the status of the conflict of interest check, client identification, client’s capacity,retainer agreement and money requested on account of costs. It is the lawyer’s responsibility to fill in any identified gaps. 10. Quality measure a. The file opening and control of files process will be reviewed by the management team annually at our quality management system annual review meeting. b. Any issues with this process identified by a staff member must be communicated by that person to the quality systems manager/principal through the corrective action process.
  • puseletsomolefi

    Mar. 22, 2021
  • TiffanyLitherland

    Jul. 20, 2020
  • AndeshaGermain

    Feb. 19, 2017

To manage risk better a legal practice should implement a process for opening of client files. The statuses of the client's conflict of interest check, identification, capacity and retainer agreement should be easily identifiable as part of the risk management strategy for any legal practice.

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