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Law Firm Policies and Procedures in an Era of Increasing Responsibilities : Analysis of a Survey of Law Firms


As lawyers we have duties to our clients, to third parties in limited circumstances, to government regulators, to the courts, to our partners, to our employees, and to our community. Often it is not easy to reconcile these responsibilities. The policies and procedures we adopt to meet these duties must be designed to deal appropriately with them, not just to satisfy formal legal and ethical requirements. These policies and procedures communicate our values and aspirations to legal and non-legal staff. Whatever policies and procedures we adopt, they must be workable, respected, and effective. An articulated policy or procedure that is not followed is likely to be a source of problems.

All of us are fascinated with policy decisions and bored by procedures. We tend to merely tolerate systems established by others, we wonder whether we need systems ourselves. But there is a great difference between policy-making and getting anyone to pay attention to the policy. Indeed, one must question whether there is any true policy decision in a sophis ticated organization if there is not a plan to implement it. Thus, we ought to treat policies and procedures as a unit, cach bearing on the reality of the other

The topic of law firm policies and procedures is surely a mixed bag. We find little court guidance on any of it. There has been, however, a great deal of bar association activity in some areas, some regulatory agency pronouncements in other areas, and some malpractice insurer suggestions as well. Today, nearly every law firm of any size has a manual of policies and procedures covering a broad range of subjects.

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