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Ownership and withholding of client documents

If your client disengages and still owes you fees or is disputing the services you have provided, you might be tempted to hold onto documentation that should be returned, until you are paid what you think you are owed.

A document can be in electronic form as well as hard copy to any stored information in any format. This revised guidance looks at options and explains the forms of lien that you may exercise. It also provides advice that may help you ending up in this type of situation.

To determine whether documents and records belong to you, you will need to consider:

  • The capacity in which you act in relation to your client.
  • The contract between you and your client
  • The purpose for which the documents and records exist or are brought into being.

Revised guidance (effective from May 1, 2019) is available here. 

This guidance is available to clients considering complaints against Members in Practice with regard to retention of documents.