Good instructions = Good defence
Bad instructions = Bad defence
No instructions = No defence
A busy legal office sees many clients and takes many instructions throughout the working week. By Friday afternoon it is not easy to remember clearly the instructions taken at 9am Monday morning. That’s why it is so important to take clear concise instructions that can be used to run the matter or be passed on to a paralegal.
‘I have my trusty note pad’ many say, well not only is there the potential for notes to be piecemeal and perhaps mislaid, there is also no framework for the instructions, no reminders or tips about important information to collect or things to discuss.
Retainer Instructions are drafted and reviewed by practising lawyers and conveyancers to ensure they are collecting the necessary instructions, up to date and user friendly. Every matter plan has a retainer instruction precedent that is unique to that matter type, covering the basics, such as the client’s details through to the important facts of the matter and including helpful tips such as tax implications, duties concessions and grants.
Print them early
The retainer instructions are designed to be printed ahead of the initial meeting and are used to record the notes and instructions taken during the meeting. They follow a logical progression and provide prompts ensuring nothing is missed.
Retainer instructions are designed to cover everything! But if you know the client, ‘still at the same address?’ there’s no need to fill in all the contact details – just record their names. Cross out anything which is irrelevant. The important thing is that unlike a notepad a retainer instruction sheet clearly demonstrates the depth of the interview taken, and what was relevant and what wasn’t.
Keeping up to date
The retainer instructions have all the latest information at your fingertips. Scale fees for estate matters. Order of succession on intestacy. Stamp duty amounts for first home buyers. And so much more.
In addition to ensuring that good instructions are taken, retainer instructions assist support staff to open the file. All the information they need is there, set out clearly. After opening the matter, they can easily follow any additional instructions noted in the to do list at the back of the retainer instructions.
I know all the questions already
Some practitioners might only use Retainer Instructions for unfamiliar or less commonly practised matter types. While they are very good for this purpose they are equally important in your most commonly practiced areas of law.
Many people know conveyancing backwards, but being familiar can lead to becoming complacent with instruction taking, which can lead to follow up calls to check things with the client. Not terribly professional.
The Will Retainer Instructions may be signed as an informal will if necessary for unwell clients or where there may be a significant time lapse between taking instructions and execution of the will.