Why should I keep my own legal records?
We are here taking control of our own lives as much as we can – and that includes our own legal records.
I’m trying to give you alternatives to going legal as much as I can. I’m trying to give you ways of being able to resolve disputes quicker and cheaper.
But if you do need to go to a lawyer, I’m also suggesting you can either use unbundled legal services, or I want you to know how to manage that engagement so that you have a good experience through the process as you can.
What is an unbundled legal service?
It’s when you are using a lawyer, but they are not project managing. So the lawyer will roughly tell you what the next steps are, and they may give you the templates to do those steps. They’re not actually doing the work. You are doing the work and they’re reviewing it, and witnessing things for you.
If you are using unbundled services, which means you’re project managing the matter yourself, you need to have some really good legal records. But if you are actually having a full service and using a lawyer all the way through, keeping good records for yourself is also a really good idea.
Keeping really good records can help you feel a sense of control, rather than overwhelm. You can find pieces of information easier, and you can review the evidence easier. Also, if you have to leave your solicitor, for whatever reason, you have a full file already so there’s no waiting to get the file from the lawyer.
What records should you keep … and how?
So it sort of depends a little bit on whether you prefer electronic or physical filing, or a little bit of both.
Either way, you’re going to want a folder for your Court documents. Only the court documents will go in there, and you could have a physical or electronic folder, or both. You want a full copy because you’re going to want to be able to review those at any time. And preferably you’re going to want copies of the filed documents. These are the ones that the Court has received, and they have an official stamp on them, and often a date when the Court received them. This way you know that what you’re looking at is also what the Court has.
So for example, if you’re separating, you would have your Application, your financial statement, and your affidavit. Then you would have the other party’s Response, their financial statement, and their affidavit. So you’d have at least four to six documents when both parties have filed everything.
The next folder you need is for all the correspondence. So there will be emails and there will be more formal correspondence, usually on letterhead. I want you to keep the correspondence separately from the emails. So if a piece of correspondence comes attached to an email, you’re going to move that into a correspondence folder, or you’re going to print the actual correspondence out and keep it in a separate folder to your court documents.
For emails – another folder again. You’re going to want either to create a sub-inbox in your email inbox and put all the emails in there for your matter, or potentially another folder, another electronic folder again, and drop and drag all your emails across into that.
So far, we’ve got three folders: court documents, correspondence, and emails.
The other thing I really recommend is a diary. Particularly if you’re separating, you’re going to want a diary to write notes in, because you’re going to jot notes down either while you’re actually on the phone at the time, or at the end of the day. I want you to jot down what has happened for that day. You’re going to jot down who you spoke to and when, what the main points of a conversation were, particularly if you’re talking directly to the other party and particularly if it’s about kids.
I also recommend that you do the same thing when dealing with a lawyer. So basically you’re keeping file notes for yourself. Your file notes will reflect what you heard and what you say you told them. No one’s memory is perfect. That’s why we do file notes in a timely manner.