Today’s message is brief: Document it! One of the best and easiest things you can do to avoid or minimize your legal exposure is to ensure that important communications are accurately documented and saved in your files (whether paper or electronic)!
The most common legal issue that I have seen through the years is a dispute between two parties (or attorneys!) regarding what each “agreed” to do during a meeting or discussion. Typically, neither party bothered to confirm their respective understanding, or to closely review a written confirmation received from the other party.
Why does this happen? We are all very busy – emails, text messages, meetings, telephone, and faxes. We are not only bombarded with communications, but also have a myriad of other business (and personal) responsibilities each day. The thought of meticulously documenting meetings and conversations seems overwhelming. Moreover, we often build “trust” with persons that we deal with on a regular basis, and we therefore believe that documenting conversations is a waste of time, and perhaps even insulting to our business associates.
There is no “magic formula” for determining when to document meetings or discussions – just use common sense in the context of your business. If you think a meeting or discussion is important – it probably is! If you deem it important, then take a few moments and confirm it in writing. Conversely, if you receive a confirmatory writing – review it and make sure that it is accurate. If it’s not, promptly respond to clarify it. Remember that even your business “friends” can make mistakes or misunderstand you. A writing regarding an important issue can actually preserve your relationship by preventing a serious misunderstanding from taking place.
It takes a little bit of time, but you will avoid a myriad of problems by making accurate documentation a habit. Moreover, if you find yourself in a legal dispute, a confirmatory writing can often save you alot of grief and money, and may in fact directly contribute to a quicker and more favorable outcome. It sounds so simple…and it is!