No room for fossils

Judge Larry Primeaux’s blog post today entitled, “Twenty-First Century Fossils,” discusses ““fossilization of the hard drive.” This occurs when, as the Judge states,

when lawyers time and again have the same erroneous matter in pleadings, PSA’s, or other documents, and, when (again) brought to their attention the lawyers sheepishly admit the error and promise (again) to fix it. But they don’t. Because that error is saved countless times in other documents on the hard drive, and changing it once does not solve the problem.

A harmless example of what I am talking about is the lawyer in our district whose divorce complaints pled grounds thus: ” … guilty of habitual cruel and inhuman treatment as codiciled in MCA 93-5-1 …” That’s hard to eradicate when it appears in 1,000 other complaints stored — and fossilized — on the hard drive. Every time I called it to his attention, he professed he would fix it. After five years or so, he managed to pull it off somehow.

There are a number of solutions to this problem, one of which is discussed by the judge. Here’s mine: Create a folder on the hard drive labelled “Templates.” Client work goes into a folder for that client. (The client’s folder can have sub-folders if the office is handling more than one matter for that client.) Only the most recent “clean” documents sit in the template folder. Everyone in the office must be instructed to only use the template folder for templates and not to write over the template documents with client work. (There is a back-up folder in case the latter rule is broken.) The templates are revised each time a new pertinent rule, statute, or case ruling is promulgated. The template folder should be divided with sub-folders for the various types of documents frequently used by the office, e.g., “PSA,” “Deeds,” “Wills,” etc.

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