Attorneys should use checklists to make sure everything is done and clients should be careful to make sure the business is taken care of.
Our firm utilizes checklists for just about every action we take. We utilize the check lists even when they pertain to matters that we have well in hand. I learned about the importance of checklists during my pilot training. I was surprised to see that my highly trained instructor, who had served over 20 years in the air force as a rescue pilot, still utilized checklists for procedures he had done a thousand times. When you board a plane, peek through the pilot’s door, and notice how these men and women, who fly every day for a living, are going over their checklists.
The recent case of Henderson v. Henderson, No. 2008-CA-02107-COA (Decided January 19, 2010), is illustrative on the point. In that case, the parties reached agreement on a divorce on irreconcilable differences. They signed the Agreement and the Judge signed the Decree of Divorce. However, for some reason, the signed order was never filed in the Chancery Clerk’s office. Then, two years later, the whole divorce was dismissed under court rules calling for cases to be dismissed for lack of activity. The husband decided to try and take advantage of this and stopped paying alimony and filed for divorce on grounds of desertion. Fortunately for the Wife, the Judge would have nothing of this and signed a new Decree dating back to the time of the original agreement. The Court of Appeals affirmed.
Our firm has a “File Closing Checklist.” One of the items on this checklist is a check to make sure we have a “stamped filed” copy of any final order. Utilization of such a check list ensures that bizarre or unfair results don’t take place because of clerical errors.