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July 28, 2008

Bombarding the client.

Chapter K of Jay Foonberg's book, How To Get and Keep Good Clients says that you should bombard the client with everything written concerning your firm or the client's matters. While Foonberg talks about "bombarding the client with paper" with an emphasis on keeping good clients (i.e., marketing indirectly), I always think of his Chapter K in terms of client files.

1. It's the client's file, not yours. You don't own it. And we think the client is entitled to a copy of all of it as you create it. In real time. Not just final documents like letters, contracts and pleadings. Everything. Send clients copies of e-mails, memos to file, research memoranda, cases, anything typewritten, even if the client complains a little. There are some common sense exceptions, like some e-mails, some drafts and some handwritten notes--but not many.

2. Your work: if the client doesn't see or hear it, you never did it, and it did not occur. If you don't show and tell the client what you are doing, and do that as you are doing it, there's no reason for the client to appreciate you, your work or your firm, or pay your bill.

Posted by Holden Oliver at July 28, 2008 07:00 PM


I'm not sure I'm with you on this one. In my experience, clients don't want everything. They believe that one of the things they are paying you for is the exercise of good judgment as to what they need to know and what is just background noise (a term that describes a lot of any file). I think it's worth asking about at the beginning of an engagement. You want to avoid the situation where your client feels like he or she is wasting time on your matter reading irrelevant stuff.

Posted by: Patrick J. Lamb at July 28, 2008 01:04 PM

Pat, you are right. Ours is just a general rule--but we're finding that even sophisticated clients "want stuff". And the idea is that they should get what they are paying for. Most clients will tell when you to stop. You don't have to ask (but you can). I guess I think that the default position should be "send everything, it's theirs."

Posted by: Holden Oliver at July 28, 2008 01:56 PM

it seems to me that this sort of thinking about a very real issue can only lead to trouble. Saying "send everything, it's theirs," only sets one up for a charge of breach of fiduciary duty for not revealing what is not written down.

It seems to me that it is very misleading to say "send everything, it's theirs," when in fact, the most important insights are never in writing and certainly not "theirs." For example, Gerry Spence's insights as to how to select a jury for a particular case are his property, not the clients, and no one (I hope) is silly enough to give such information to a client

What should be done is to routinely provide clients copies of papers received or prepared---no more, no less


Posted by: Moe Levine at July 28, 2008 04:05 PM

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