Voice

September-October 2013

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NAVIGATE RESOURCES: Table of Contents InfoNet aila.org 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 handles. 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 and postage. 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 Find a Member ? ! Contact a Mentor Shop Agora 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 S EPTEMBER/ O CTOBER 2013 11

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