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The art of writing attendance notes

Sep 22 2015

Being able to write a decent attendance note is an essential part of a solicitors toolkit. However, it is all too easy to get it wrong! A well written attendance note doesn’t just benefit colleagues who may need to look after the case in your absence, but they can also form part of critical evidence if you’re ever challenged over the way you have conducted a case.

Take for example the 2013 case of Padden v Bevan Ashford. In that case, the Court of Appeal had to consider an appeal against the High Court’s decision in favour of Mrs Padden which was brought by Bevan Ashford on three grounds; one of which related to Bevan Ashford’s fee earner’s recollection of a meeting with Mrs Padden, for which there was no attendance note on the file.

The case concerned a woman (Mrs Padden) whose husband had stolen a substantial amount of money from his clients. Mrs Padden was asked to sign a deed which would allow the family home and shares in her name to be sold and used to repay her husband’s clients and she told by her husband’s solicitor that this would prevent her husband going to prison. Mrs Padden instructed Bevan Ashford to advise her regarding the documentation she had been asked to sign. Mrs Padden had two meetings with two different solicitors and signed the deed at the second meeting. Mrs Padden’s case was that the solicitor at Bevan Ashford did not give her any advice about the consequences or risks of signing the deed, including the risk that it did not guarantee that her husband would not face criminal prosecution.

The solicitor who met with Mrs Padden at the second meeting did not keep an attendance note of what was discussed at the meeting and he was also unable to recall the meeting, but instead tried to rely on his usual practice which was to advise about the consequences of signing the deed and the risk that the assets could be lost, to show that Mrs Padden had been properly advised.

The Court of Appeal dismissed Bevan Ashford’s appeal and held that the original trial judge was entitled to prefer Mrs Padden’s recollection of the second meeting to the solicitor’s and found that as Mrs Padden’s situation was an unusual one it could not have been covered by the solicitor’s ‘usual practice’. Professional negligence specialists, Samuels Solicitors based in Barnstaple, acted for the Claimant Mrs Padden.

The importance of keeping attendance notes of all meetings and advice given is clear. Our new e-learning course on “Writing Attendance Notes” will give you some great tips for taking notes and then writing well-structured and useful attendance note….that’s fit for scrutiny by the Court of Appeal! As with all of our courses, it’s hugely practical. So you’ll be asked to make notes of a client meeting, have a go at drafting the attendance note itself and get the chance to compare your note with ours.

To take the course, visit our course page Writing attendance notes