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Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself: Attorneys Must Install Conflict Check Systems

Despite the fact of memory's faults having been proven over many generations (especially during this season . . . am I right, fellas?: 'What do you mean you didn't buy me flowers for Valentine's Day?'), a significant number of attorneys still use it as their primary method for running conflict checks. I've heard all the excuses: 'I have a great memory.  I never forget anything.' . . . 'I know literally all of my clients.' . . . 'I know everybody in town.' Perhaps the last is a vestige of small-town lawyering; but, I still hear it -- even today.

The plain fact of the matter, however, is that memory is not an effective conflict checking system. And, given the ease of electronic recordkeeping these days, there is no excuse for avoiding the application of better methods, save for illegitimate reasons of stubbornness, acute insensitivity to risk and those delusions of grandiose memory-related skills. Even if you're using something as simple as an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of your clients and to search for potential conflicts, that's better than nothing, and certainly better than relying on your memory. And, while an effective Excel spreadsheet may work, there are more robust options available. You can access more features, and integration with other of your applications, by using contact management functionality built-in to your email or your practice management software. All you're really doing is creating a list of contacts with a global search capability built-in; and, that can be accomplished simply (spreadsheet) or in a more complex, connected way (e-mail/practice management software). In order to capture as much information as possible, include related parties and adverse parties (so identified) in your contact list/conflict check system, and be sure to ask your potential clients about maiden names and aliases.  

And, don't forget, gentlemen . . . Monday is Valentine's Day.

Tip courtesy of Jared Correia, Law Practice Management Advisor, Law Office Management Assistance Program.

Published February 10, 2011

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