I was recently reading an article in the January/February 2008 ABA GP Solo Magazine (Volume 25, Number 1) by Timothy J. Gephart entitled “Malpractice: What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate.” The article does a great job of outlining the fact that an ever-increasing number of claims against attorneys are based off of violations of ABA Model Rule 1.4, or the communication rule. Simply put, the rule requires that a lawyer keep the client informed, consult with the client about ways to accomplish the goals, keep the client reasonable informed about status, reply to requests for information, and consult with the client regarding ethical limitations of the attorney. It sounds simple. However, more than ever, clients are grieving and/or suing their attorneys for violating this particular rule. The fact of the matter is that there is an easy and readily available solution to avoid this type of problem.
An extranet can help you satisfy all of the rule requirements. It allows you to keep a running track record of all communications with the client. It tracks deliverables, encourages collaboration and discussion of issues important in the case as well as limitations for the lawyer, and is the means through which status updates and actual documents can be provided. Should the attorney-client relationship ever break down, what better way to show that the lawyer met all of his ethical obligations then by referring to the extranet where the client and lawyer actively engaged in dialog, discussed the points of attack, outlined risks and rewards, and ultimately decided upon a course of action. If the extranet can serve as a built-in protection against even one malpractice claim, it is worth its weight in gold. Lawyers who fear having an extranet and an open relationship with their clients will lead to malpractice claims rather than prevent them could not be more wrong. Moreover, would you want a lawyer with such a concern representing you? Brian