Unless you have seen first hand, the way that legal proceedings can be built or destroyed, by a written note relating to a matter in issue, then you cannot appreciate how much lawyers and the court system love bits of paper. Written notes on bits of paper can literally determine the outcome of legal proceedings.
The absence of written notes can cause lawyers on both sides of an argument to work for days preparing affidavit material, each trying to recount, with limited success what was said. In many cases the factual debate is often won by the person with the best supporting paper.
Once an event, an agreement or a statement, moves into the past it is lost and can be misunderstood or corrupted at a future time. The recording of that information in writing, if the recording was made at the time of the event or, shortly after is very influential, as it is a tangible connection with, what happened.
So how can business people apply this to their advantage.
1. Keep records of all communications sent or received. Timing is often as important as content.
2. When taking on new business or when deals are made or amended follow up with a letter setting out what was discussed and agreed. This will bring any problems to the surface early on.
3. Make sure that you keep your database of emails and letters in a format that can be easily retrieved if that is necessary. Email is a great way of quickly confirming a situation and is an effective record in court. Make sure you get a read receipt.
4. Make sure file notes are made at the time meetings are held and then send out a minute after the meeting.
5. Reduce all agreements to writing, whether these be partnership agreements, supply agreements, or agreements with customers and clients.
If the other party and their lawyer know that you have good supporting records then this may be enough to avoid litigation or prompt an early settlement of any dispute.