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The humble file note

It doesn’t matter what task they are performing, Attorneys are accustomed to having to make a note of their activities in some or other form – whether it be on paper or with the aid of smart e-tools.

The reason is simple: They are obliged to keep record of just about their entire legal careers as they may be called upon to substantiate or prove what they claim to have done, said or written, whether it be by the opposition or the Courts. It really is like leaving behind a paper trail of your life. While it is at times painful and frustrating, it is also a fact and unavoidable.

Enter the humble file-note. Without it the Attorney will hardly be able to function, let alone provide a proficient service. But the humble file note has a further very important purpose in your practice:

Completed effectively, it entitles you to fair remuneration for the work done and services rendered. And believe me; without it, that may prove to be very difficult if not near impossible to achieve.

As professional Cost Consultants we are amazed at how many legal professionals fail to give the file-note the attention it deserves. The importance of a simple file-note especially at the stage of preparing a bill of costs (and its even greater significance at the time of Taxation) cannot be stressed and impressed upon enough. Taking a few seconds to scribble something on a small piece of paper has made the difference between success and failure to an Attorney many a time in history and will make that difference again and again.

The failure to keep proper file-notes has resulted in Attorneys being disallowed huge fees and charges on taxation even when the work was done competently enough. We have witnessed instances where the failure to keep or make proper file-notes have caused cases to be lost; instances where Taxations have turned into nightmares. Unfortunately, these are not isolated incidents. We see them all the time.

At Bills of Cost we have impressed on our clients for decades the importance of: firstly keeping proper file notes; secondly committing them to paper and thirdly keeping the notes on file at all times.

Even when the Attorney records his activities via an e-tool or on an electronic time recording system, please ensure that it is also committed to paper. Encourage and drill your article-clerks and personnel to do this as a daily ritual. The difference it will make to your fee earning capacity will be clearly evident in your revenue figures at the end of the day.

This advice comes to you through actual and real experience over many decades. Please do not ignore it!

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