Do’s and Don’ts of Documentation – Employment Litigation

As many of you know, proper documentation is critical in almost every aspect of managing your employees. Documentation is often the difference between a defense verdict and a multi-million dollar jury award. But don’t just document to document – poor documentation is worse than no documentation at all. Instead, document with purpose. Here are my top five do’s and don’ts of documentation.

The Do’s

1. Do Establish Clear Performance Expectations. I like to start out formal documentation with a clear statement of what the employer’s performance expectations are for the employee. This statement of the performance expectations will guide every aspect of the documentation and set the standards upon which current deficiencies are noted and future performance will be measured. It should be obvious, but make sure an employee is not hearing these performance expectancies for the first time in formal documentation of a performance problem. If that is the case, you have bigger problems than poor documentation. Instead, the performance expectancies need to be consistent with the employee’s job description and the tasks actually assigned to the employee. Consistent, clear and well-written performance expectations are critical if you want an employee to succeed in changing his performance.

2. Do Focus on the Facts. Provide the employee with a clear statement of the facts. A clear statement of the facts focuses solely on what you know happened, and does not include any speculation or unverified information. For the purpose of a disciplinary action, the fact that an employee reported to work two hours late is sufficient. You do not need to include the speculation that the employee had been out drinking the night before because he has a weekly poker game at the local watering hole. Stick to the facts because this might have been the one night the employee missed the poker game to care for his sick child.

3. Do Review Patterns of Problem Behavior. When an employer takes the time to actually perform written documentation of a performance or behavior problem, it typically is not the first time the employee has had the problem. Instead of ignoring all of the previous instances, list in detail every occasion when the employee has exhibited the problem behavior. Be sure to include what steps were taken each time these problems came to light – did the supervisor talk to the employee, was the employee reprimanded (formally or informally), was the employee warned or suspended. Include the pattern to show that you considered these previous instances when taking the current action.

4. Do Write a Specific Plan. Include in your documentation a specific plan for the employee to improve. List out the criteria the employee must meet, and a time frame for meeting each expectancy. The more specific and objective the criteria, the easier it is to measure improvement. Be sure to include in your documentation that failure to meet the criteria will result in further disciplinary action, up to and including termination. 

5. Do Follow-up. Documentation is only valuable if you follow-up. For example, if you place an employee on a formal 6-month corrective action plan, but never follow-up, the corrective action plan is void. The best practice is to have specific criteria with specific time frames, and have a formal review during those exact timeframes. Don’t delay!

The Don’ts 

1. Don’t Generalize. The most difficult cases to defend are those in which the employee is terminated for “not being a team player” or any other trendy cliché. Such generalizations have no place in formal documentation. You must provide specific examples of problematic behavior. Fail to do so, and you may “be left holding the bag.” 

2. Don’t Diagnose Why the Employee Is Performing Poorly. New lawyers are taught to focus on the what, when, where, and why when asking a witness questions. When documenting poor performance, don’t diagnose the “why.” Even if you suspect the employee’s divorce, financial situation or social life is affecting his performance, avoid the urge to put such a diagnosis in the formal documentation. Understand that it is entirely proper to offer employee assistance or other benefits to employees that have personal problems, but it is not appropriate to include such personal problems in formal documentation.

3. Don’t Include Your Mental Impressions and Editorial Comments. A common mistake made by inexperienced supervisors is to include their mental impressions in the performance documentation. What do I mean?  Say an employee is written up for failure to follow supervisor’s instructions. Instead of simply stating exactly what the supervisor told the employee, the supervisor will state something like “I thought my directions were clear.”  If you have to editorialize what was said, it probably was not as clear as you thought. State the facts, and avoid commenting on those facts. 

4. Don’t Embellish, Stretch the Truth or Call It Something It is Not. There is nothing worse than documentation where an employer overstates what took place. Minor embellishments tend to take on a life of their own, often becoming the driving force behind the disciplinary action when the truth was sufficient. Now you are left defending a lie. Worse yet, don’t call “dishonesty” a “fraud” and don’t accuse an employee of “stealing” when they made a mistake. Call it as you see it and nothing more.

5. Don’t Apologize. I cringe reading a disciplinary document where a supervisor says, “I am sorry I have to do this.” No, you’re not! You are doing your job, and you are doing the documentation because the employee is not doing their job. If you have to apologize for something, then formal documentation is obviously not warranted.

Practical Take Away

Documentation is an important aspect of managing relationships with your employees.  You will be much better served by shifting your approach to documentation from quantity to quality. Trust me, you would much rather defend one or two well-written documents than twenty-five poorly written ones. So, go forward and document with purpose.

Copyright Holland & Hart LLP 1995-2015.

Chief Litigation Officer Summit – September 8-10 2013

The National Law Review is pleased to bring you information about the upcoming Chief Litigation Officer Summit.

 

Chief Lit Officer Sept 2013

 

When: 8-10 September 2013
Where: The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, FL, USA

The primary objective of the Chief Litigation Officer Summit is to explore the key aspects and issues related to litigation best practices and the protection and defense of corporations. The Summit’s program topics have been pinpointed and validated by leading litigation counsel as the top critical issues they face.

 

Third-Party Litigation Funding Comes of Age

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Law firm Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) are on the front line of client development, and thus have an unobstructed view of how the legal market for complex litigation is developing. As budget pressures continue to weigh on corporate general counsel, the need for law firms to adjust their pricing to secure new clients is clearly being felt – some firms are now hiring specialty personnel to focus solely on the question of proper pricing. CMOs are thus actively speaking the lingua franca of today’s latest fee structures – from RFPs to AFAs and discounted fees.

Given this, it is surprising to discover that many otherwise business savvy CMOs know little about the emergence of commercial litigation finance. While some are keenly aware of the new industry’s progress – and eager to share their involvement in the funding of multiple cases – others are seemingly unfamiliar with the advent of specialist funding companies and the business development opportunities that they could present for them.

In fairness, due to the often confidential nature of commercial litigation finance, the commercial litigation finance industry has been somewhat constrained in publicizing itself. One example of this is at a recent conference I sat next to the sharp CMO of a top firm who asked me what litigation finance did and what company I worked for. I explained to him that we financed legal fees in multi-million dollar cases, and that we had recently funded a case involving his own firm!

At its most basic level, litigation finance is very straightforward. A third-party funds legal fees and expenses associated with a litigation or arbitration, in return for a portion of the ultimate proceeds (settlement or judgment), if any. Importantly, the funding is typically “non-recourse”, meaning that if there is no recovery for the plaintiff, the litigation financier receives no fee.

Claimants have historically found ways to fund their cases – with available capital, through a bank loan, or by agreeing to a contingency fee with their attorney. What has changed recently is the emergence of specialty finance companies that limit their work to the financing of litigation. These firms – which first appeared in Australia a decade ago, and are now active in the United Kingdom and the United States.  They typically invest in large-scale and complex commercial litigation, with investments (and thus legal fees) on the order of several million dollars.

Not all cases are appropriate for litigation financing, and certain criteria must be met as part of a careful due diligence process. Four considerations include:

  1. the merits of the claim – the case must stand a very strong chance of success on the law and facts;
  2. the ratio of costs/proceeds – the ratio of legal fees (and other costs) must be in proper proportion to the expected proceeds (to allow for reasonable costs associated with financing – typically a ratio of at least 1:4 is required);
  3. the duration of the proceedings – as the cost of financing will usually be related to the time the case takes to resolve (given the time value of money), notice must be paid to the expected length of the case; and
  4. the enforceability of judgment – it must be clear at the outset that, if the claim is successful, the plaintiff will be able to collect its judgment from the defendant.

Once an investment is made, litigation financiers are careful as to their involvement in a given case. Important rules of legal ethics are respected so that the funder does not interfere with case strategy, settlement decisions, or the attorney-client relationship. And, as mentioned above, the financing is typically kept confidential between the parties.

Given the challenge of drawing in new clients, law firm CMOs must leverage every available advantage. In several business development scenarios, the prospect of litigation finance can help:

  • Fee negotiations – in situations where a client would prefer to work with a given firm – but the client will not (or cannot) pay the firm’s standard hourly fees – financing can be used to pay such fees and allow the case to proceed;
  • Alternative to contingency fee – in situations where a firm is asked to act on a contingency fee basis, a litigation financier can step in to provide a similar result: the firm receives its standard hourly fees, paid for by the funder, which in turn only receives compensation in the event of a “win” (sometimes referred to as a “synthetic contingency”);
  • RFP (request for proposal) – in situations where an RFP has been issued by a potential client, a firm’s response may be better received if it makes proper mention of litigation finance as an innovative variation to AFA (alternative fee arrangements); and
  • Fee “fatigue” – in situations where an existing client involved in extended litigation has begun to express concern regarding mounting fees (perhaps on the eve of trial), litigation finance can offer immediate cash-flow relief and allow the firm to receive its full fees.

In short, litigation finance can offer law firm CMOs (and anyone involved in legal business development) a new tool with which to hammer out difficult pricing issues and fee structures for big-ticket litigation.

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7th Drug & Medical Device Litigation Forum, 7-8 Mar 2012, Philadelphia

The National Law Review is pleased to inform you of the 7th Drug & Medical Device Litigation Forum: Implementing Appropriate Litigation Readiness and Costs Management Policies That Ensure An Effective Defense at Trial 
Event Date: 7-8 Mar 2012
Location: Philadelphia, PA, United States
Key conference topics
  • Mitigate and maintain costs associated with litigation
  • Gain judical insight on drug and medical litigation and its recent developments
  • Build better relationships with outside counsel in order to reduce the miscommunciation factor
  • Understand the limitations of marketing and advertising as it relates to emerging social media issues
  • Learn the latest on medical device product liability

Conference focus

 Pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers have faced a growing array of legal challenges this year. With the increase of mass tort litigation, as it relates to product liability, pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers must be prepared to defend the increasingly sophisticated, well-funded and multi-jurisdictional product liability campaigns against their companies.

The 7th Drug and Medical Device Litigation Conference will be a two-day, industry focused event specific to those within Drug & Medical Device Litigation, Product Liability and Regulatory Affairs in the Medical Device, Biotech and Pharmaceutical industries.

By attending this event, industry leaders will share best practices, strategies and tools on incorporating litigation readiness, utilizing cost efficient litigation strategies and accurately managing policies to ensure an effective defense at trial.

Attending This Event Will Enable You to:
1. Review the current landscape of drug and medical device litigation
2. Learn strategies in settlements and mass tort issues
3. Manage litigation expenses in order to effectively manage costs
4. Review recent case rulings, including the Mensing and Levine cases
5. Take a view from the bench: explore drug and medical device litigation
from a judicial point of view
6. Tackle product liability issues and challenges
7. Uncover the risks for drug and medical device companies when leveraging social media for marketing and advertising campaigns

With a one-track focus, the 7th Drug and Medical Device Litigation Conference is a highly intensive, content-driven event that includes case studies, presentations and panel discussions over two full days.

This is not a trade show; our Drug and Medical Device Litigation conference series is targeted at a focused group of senior level leaders to maintain an intimate atmosphere for the delegates and speakers. Since we are not a vendor driven conference, the higher level focus allows delegates to network with their industry peers.

Testimonials:

“Great selection & breadth of speakers. Uniformly high quality of presentations. Intimate nature of meeting provided excellent opportunities for networking” – Abbott

“Great venue to learn and exchange best practices. More importantly how to leverage lesions learned from others.” – Baxter

“One of the best meetings I’ve attended. Excellent organization, topics and speakers. Overall extremely well done.” – Sanofi Aventis

marcusevans


7th Drug & Medical Device Litigation Forum, 7-8 Mar 2012, Philadelphia

The National Law Review is pleased to inform you of the 7th Drug & Medical Device Litigation Forum: Implementing Appropriate Litigation Readiness and Costs Management Policies That Ensure An Effective Defense at Trial 
Event Date: 7-8 Mar 2012
Location: Philadelphia, PA, United States
Key conference topics
  • Mitigate and maintain costs associated with litigation
  • Gain judical insight on drug and medical litigation and its recent developments
  • Build better relationships with outside counsel in order to reduce the miscommunciation factor
  • Understand the limitations of marketing and advertising as it relates to emerging social media issues
  • Learn the latest on medical device product liability

Conference focus

 Pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers have faced a growing array of legal challenges this year. With the increase of mass tort litigation, as it relates to product liability, pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers must be prepared to defend the increasingly sophisticated, well-funded and multi-jurisdictional product liability campaigns against their companies.

The 7th Drug and Medical Device Litigation Conference will be a two-day, industry focused event specific to those within Drug & Medical Device Litigation, Product Liability and Regulatory Affairs in the Medical Device, Biotech and Pharmaceutical industries.

By attending this event, industry leaders will share best practices, strategies and tools on incorporating litigation readiness, utilizing cost efficient litigation strategies and accurately managing policies to ensure an effective defense at trial.

Attending This Event Will Enable You to:
1. Review the current landscape of drug and medical device litigation
2. Learn strategies in settlements and mass tort issues
3. Manage litigation expenses in order to effectively manage costs
4. Review recent case rulings, including the Mensing and Levine cases
5. Take a view from the bench: explore drug and medical device litigation
from a judicial point of view
6. Tackle product liability issues and challenges
7. Uncover the risks for drug and medical device companies when leveraging social media for marketing and advertising campaigns

With a one-track focus, the 7th Drug and Medical Device Litigation Conference is a highly intensive, content-driven event that includes case studies, presentations and panel discussions over two full days.

This is not a trade show; our Drug and Medical Device Litigation conference series is targeted at a focused group of senior level leaders to maintain an intimate atmosphere for the delegates and speakers. Since we are not a vendor driven conference, the higher level focus allows delegates to network with their industry peers.

Testimonials:

“Great selection & breadth of speakers. Uniformly high quality of presentations. Intimate nature of meeting provided excellent opportunities for networking” – Abbott

“Great venue to learn and exchange best practices. More importantly how to leverage lesions learned from others.” – Baxter

“One of the best meetings I’ve attended. Excellent organization, topics and speakers. Overall extremely well done.” – Sanofi Aventis

marcusevans


7th Drug & Medical Device Litigation Forum, 7-8 Mar 2012, Philadelphia

The National Law Review is pleased to inform you of the 7th Drug & Medical Device Litigation Forum: Implementing Appropriate Litigation Readiness and Costs Management Policies That Ensure An Effective Defense at Trial 
Event Date: 7-8 Mar 2012
Location: Philadelphia, PA, United StatesKey conference topics

  • Mitigate and maintain costs associated with litigation
  • Gain judical insight on drug and medical litigation and its recent developments
  • Build better relationships with outside counsel in order to reduce the miscommunciation factor
  • Understand the limitations of marketing and advertising as it relates to emerging social media issues
  • Learn the latest on medical device product liability

Conference focus

 Pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers have faced a growing array of legal challenges this year. With the increase of mass tort litigation, as it relates to product liability, pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers must be prepared to defend the increasingly sophisticated, well-funded and multi-jurisdictional product liability campaigns against their companies.

The 7th Drug and Medical Device Litigation Conference will be a two-day, industry focused event specific to those within Drug & Medical Device Litigation, Product Liability and Regulatory Affairs in the Medical Device, Biotech and Pharmaceutical industries.

By attending this event, industry leaders will share best practices, strategies and tools on incorporating litigation readiness, utilizing cost efficient litigation strategies and accurately managing policies to ensure an effective defense at trial.

Attending This Event Will Enable You to:
1. Review the current landscape of drug and medical device litigation
2. Learn strategies in settlements and mass tort issues
3. Manage litigation expenses in order to effectively manage costs
4. Review recent case rulings, including the Mensing and Levine cases
5. Take a view from the bench: explore drug and medical device litigation
from a judicial point of view
6. Tackle product liability issues and challenges
7. Uncover the risks for drug and medical device companies when leveraging social media for marketing and advertising campaigns

With a one-track focus, the 7th Drug and Medical Device Litigation Conference is a highly intensive, content-driven event that includes case studies, presentations and panel discussions over two full days.

This is not a trade show; our Drug and Medical Device Litigation conference series is targeted at a focused group of senior level leaders to maintain an intimate atmosphere for the delegates and speakers. Since we are not a vendor driven conference, the higher level focus allows delegates to network with their industry peers.

Testimonials:

“Great selection & breadth of speakers. Uniformly high quality of presentations. Intimate nature of meeting provided excellent opportunities for networking” – Abbott

“Great venue to learn and exchange best practices. More importantly how to leverage lesions learned from others.” – Baxter

“One of the best meetings I’ve attended. Excellent organization, topics and speakers. Overall extremely well done.” – Sanofi Aventis

marcusevans


7th Drug & Medical Device Litigation Forum, 7-8 Mar 2012, Philadelphia

The National Law Review is pleased to inform you of the 7th Drug & Medical Device Litigation Forum: Implementing Appropriate Litigation Readiness and Costs Management Policies That Ensure An Effective Defense at TrialEvent Date: 7-8 Mar 2012

Location: Philadelphia, PA, United States

Key conference topics

  • Mitigate and maintain costs associated with litigation
  • Gain judical insight on drug and medical litigation and its recent developments
  • Build better relationships with outside counsel in order to reduce the miscommunciation factor
  • Understand the limitations of marketing and advertising as it relates to emerging social media issues
  • Learn the latest on medical device product liability

Conference focus

 Pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers have faced a growing array of legal challenges this year. With the increase of mass tort litigation, as it relates to product liability, pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers must be prepared to defend the increasingly sophisticated, well-funded and multi-jurisdictional product liability campaigns against their companies.

The 7th Drug and Medical Device Litigation Conference will be a two-day, industry focused event specific to those within Drug & Medical Device Litigation, Product Liability and Regulatory Affairs in the Medical Device, Biotech and Pharmaceutical industries.

By attending this event, industry leaders will share best practices, strategies and tools on incorporating litigation readiness, utilizing cost efficient litigation strategies and accurately managing policies to ensure an effective defense at trial.

Attending This Event Will Enable You to:
1. Review the current landscape of drug and medical device litigation
2. Learn strategies in settlements and mass tort issues
3. Manage litigation expenses in order to effectively manage costs
4. Review recent case rulings, including the Mensing and Levine cases
5. Take a view from the bench: explore drug and medical device litigation
from a judicial point of view
6. Tackle product liability issues and challenges
7. Uncover the risks for drug and medical device companies when leveraging social media for marketing and advertising campaigns

With a one-track focus, the 7th Drug and Medical Device Litigation Conference is a highly intensive, content-driven event that includes case studies, presentations and panel discussions over two full days.

This is not a trade show; our Drug and Medical Device Litigation conference series is targeted at a focused group of senior level leaders to maintain an intimate atmosphere for the delegates and speakers. Since we are not a vendor driven conference, the higher level focus allows delegates to network with their industry peers.

Testimonials:

“Great selection & breadth of speakers. Uniformly high quality of presentations. Intimate nature of meeting provided excellent opportunities for networking” – Abbott

“Great venue to learn and exchange best practices. More importantly how to leverage lesions learned from others.” – Baxter

“One of the best meetings I’ve attended. Excellent organization, topics and speakers. Overall extremely well done.” – Sanofi Aventis

marcusevans