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December 16, 2007

"Tip of the Week" - Is Your Client Who They Say They Are?

B10nature_characters_humanoids0052 A recent listserv discussion talked about the benefits of being able to represent clients we have never met; advanced technology allowing us to do this more frequently and for all manner of practice area without an actual face-to-face meeting.  My consultancy and coaching has no borders and I've not had the pleasure of meeting 99% of my clients as most business is conducted via internet and phone.

However, when you are practicing law and legal rights are at stake (and your license) you had better make sure you are, in fact, representing the right person.

When I was practicing my primary practice area was divorce.  It is not uncommon to have a non-appearing party for any number of reasons, military, or whatever.  But there are court procedures for this as it is anticipated there can be non-appearing parties and significant rights are at stake.

But what about clients who simply don't feel the need to meet you face-to-face?  Is it a non-litigious matter and simply one of document signing and conferring monetary benefits?  If you choose to represent this person, what procedures do you have in place to verify they are, in fact, who they purport to be?

There is so much identity theft, if you do not have a system or policy in place, you could be setting yourself up for costly headaches, grievances and possible disbarment. 

Don't let the potential problems dissuade you from expanding your geographical reach.  Just understand technology provides new benefits and new liabilities which must be handled differently.  The Rules of Professional Conduct provide a conceptual framework that is translatable to new technologies if you understand the rationale behind it.   And as always, we are in a business which requires serious CYA, so explore your options to expand your business, but act wisely.


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Rita Cartwright

As a Virtual Assistant, I am in the same type of situation. I always require a signed contract before I begin clients' projects. It's doesn't prove they are who they say they are, but I'm CMA somewhat.

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