The Law Trends & News bulletin from the ABA General Practice, Solo & Small Firm Division recently published an article cautioning against sending unprotected drafts of documents to clients. In some instances, certainly, sending a draft may make a lawyer dispensable and may, in fact, expose a lawyer to a malpractice suit.
Consider, for example, working with a client to draft an antenuptual agreement for a bridegroom. The client may be local or may live a distance from your office. It's tempting to use an email attachment to send a draft agreement in MSWord format to the client for review. However, if the draft is complete, why does the client need you any longer? And perhaps the draft is incomplete. Perhaps you haven't put all of the contractual boilerplate in yet.
Fast forward a few years and suppose that the married couple is contemplating divorce. Your former client comes to see you and you learn that he had used the draft agreement as a final document that was signed by both him and his spouse. You'd told him in the email to which you attached the document that it was incomplete, you'd advised him that several important provisions had to be added, and you'd also told him in the initial contact that certain formalities were required to make the prenup invulnerable to a successful challenge.
Now you learn that your client had received the draft and had use MS Word to “change a few things” in his disclosure of assets. Not only is your reputation at stake, but you may have a malpractice issue.
The entire article made be read here: Scott, Todd C. and Inge, Wendy, Tempting Fate: Avoid Emailing Unprotected Draft Documents to Clients, Law Trends & News, ABA General Practice, Solo & Small Firm Division, Summer 2010, Vol. 6, No. 4.