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Don’t Write on Original Documents!

One of the best, appropriately brief posts I have seen in a while comes from Mark Chinn's blog from April 30, 2012. Mark is an outstanding Family Law attorney in Jackson, MS and has been producing a very nice blog on Family Law issues. It has excellent advice for something that comes up once in a while.

Sometimes, while preparing a case, it becomes important for a client to bring a document to the lawyer to help prove a point. Documents include tax returns, various applications, certificates, old court pleadings, accounting records, letters and many other things. The documents need to be in good condition and hopefully, be originals. Which brings us to the advice:

PLEASE don't write on original documents! Your writing can make the document hard to read, but more importantly, it may become inadmissible because it contains hearsay and because it is no longer authentic. The extra writing is considered hearsay, which is generally inadmissible, and the document has been changed into something new by the writing. It may seem like a trivial technicality, but that writing does cause a problem. How to Avoid the Problem? There are several simple solutions:

  • Make a copy and write your notes on the copy.

  • Scan the document and make a PDF. Then print the document and put your comments on that copy.

  • Use a sticky note for your comments.

  • Just make notes on a separate page.

  • Use self restraint. Don't write comments. Just tell your comments to your attorney.

Your attorney will be much happier and your case will be in better shape if you follow this advice!