depend on the client's reasonable belief —like the formation of the attorney-client relationship.
At the end of a case, attorneys should relay the following information in writing to clients:
First, attorneys should thank clients for hiring them
because without clients, there would be no business.
Then, clients should be told about the nature of
their immigration status, the rules about maintaining
it, and ancillary issues concerning tax status, terms of
employment, international travel, eligibility for driver's licenses, etc.
Attorneys also should say that their representation
has ended, but that clients should keep in touch when
circumstances that could impact immigration status
arise, such as a change in job duties or arrests. This
is an opportunity to tell clients about other types of
immigration and nonimmigration cases that the firm
Electronic copies of filings sent with a final e-mail
are a viable alternative to paper copies and closing letters. From the client's perspective, electronic copies
are easier to maintain and search using text recognition. Firms also benefit from the reduced use of paper
While it is acceptable to include a thank-you in a
final e-mail, a paper thank-you card, especially when
it is handwritten, is a powerful marketing statement.
Return, Preservation, and
Destruction of Documents
Upon terminating a case, attorneys must protect
clients' interests by, among other things, refunding
unearned fees and returning or retaining client property, according to Model Rules of Prof 'l Conduct R.
1.16(d). What comprises client property varies by
state. The rule in most states is that a file belongs to
the client, who presumptively has open access. In a
minority of states, clients are only entitled to end–
work product and client-provided documents, and
in a handful of other states, there is even a presumption that a file belongs to the attorney. Even in the first
scenario, however, not every single document in a file
must necessarily be made accessible to the client. Attorneys should, therefore, consult their malpractice
insurance carriers, state rules, case law, and ethics
opinions in their jurisdictions to determine what constitutes client property and how to classify paperwork
in their files.
"Attorneys should … consult their
malpractice insurance carriers,
state rules, case law, and ethics
opinions in their jurisdictions to
determine what constitutes client
property and how to classify
paperwork in their files."
Once a firm determines what client property is within the firm's jurisdiction, it can create its document
retention policy. As a general matter, documents not
considered to be client property may be purged from
a file, absent state rules to the contrary and assuming
that such action does not prejudice a client's foreseeable interests. At the same time, according to ABA
Comm. on Ethics and Prof 'l Responsibility, Informal
Op. 1384 (1977), clients reasonably expect that useful information in their files, not otherwise readily
available, should not be prematurely or carelessly destroyed, in case they lose their own copies and need
to send documents to a government agency. Also,
if clients know they can get their files from their attorney, they are more likely to hire him or her again.
Of course, it is important to retain files in the
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