How to document a verbal conversation for future legal reasons.

Non-investing personal finance issues including insurance, credit, real estate, taxes, employment and legal issues such as trusts and wills
Post Reply
jastevenson
Posts: 90
Joined: Tue Nov 27, 2012 12:32 am

How to document a verbal conversation for future legal reasons.

Post by jastevenson » Sat Jun 30, 2018 4:16 pm

What is the most legally valid way to document that a verbal conversation occurred?

For example, I could write down on a sheet of paper "Today, 6/30, I spoke with Mr. Jones, and he said 'XYZ'" and put it in a safe, but that seems pretty weak from a legal perspective.

Any thoughts/experiences would be greatly appreciated!

User avatar
dodecahedron
Posts: 3743
Joined: Tue Nov 12, 2013 12:28 pm

Re: How to document a verbal conversation for future legal reasons.

Post by dodecahedron » Sat Jun 30, 2018 4:22 pm

Send an email to the person(s) with whom you spoke summarizing your understanding of what was said and by whom at the conversation, invite any corrections to the record, and cc a few trusted associates?

adamthesmythe
Posts: 2293
Joined: Mon Sep 22, 2014 4:47 pm

Re: How to document a verbal conversation for future legal reasons.

Post by adamthesmythe » Sat Jun 30, 2018 5:22 pm

Mr. Comey wrote a contemporaneous memo summarizing the conversation, discussed the conversation with others so they would remember, and sent or showed the memo to others. This assumes that the other party is not cooperating.

If you want to document an agreement, the other party will presumably cooperate. Then sending an email summary and requesting a confirmation will probably work.

None of these are foolproof. And some types of agreement cannot be made verbally, for example, real estate transactions.

ResearchMed
Posts: 7459
Joined: Fri Dec 26, 2008 11:25 pm

Re: How to document a verbal conversation for future legal reasons.

Post by ResearchMed » Sat Jun 30, 2018 11:27 pm

dodecahedron wrote:
Sat Jun 30, 2018 4:22 pm
Send an email to the person(s) with whom you spoke summarizing your understanding of what was said and by whom at the conversation, invite any corrections to the record, and cc a few trusted associates?
Something like the above, for starters.
Whether to Cc or Bcc others could depend upon the situation; there can be pros and cons of openly Cc'ing others.

But either way, and especially if you do not Cc or Bcc others, are there others who are familiar with the situation? If so, have you discussed any of this with them? And again, if so, you could do something similar, with the others, sending an email with your recollections of discussions, and invite any comments.

IANAL, but... my understanding is...

In a legal setting, this is can be called "memorializing" the conversation, when you share it with other participants. I'd probably suggest NOT using that term, which the "opposing party" might well interpret as meaning you've been meeting with an attorney.
One you indicate that an attorney is involved, or perhaps even hint, that can cause the other person to get more adversarial and contact an attorney, and things can escalate... whether or not that was your intention/desire... or it might do so sooner than it would have otherwise.

RM
This signature is a placebo. You are in the control group.

MnD
Posts: 3793
Joined: Mon Jan 14, 2008 12:41 pm

Re: How to document a verbal conversation for future legal reasons.

Post by MnD » Sun Jul 01, 2018 12:20 am

Record it if you are in a one-party consent state.
https://www.mwl-law.com/wp-content/uplo ... -CHART.pdf

Wellfleet
Posts: 485
Joined: Sun Jan 26, 2014 8:18 pm

Re: How to document a verbal conversation for future legal reasons.

Post by Wellfleet » Sun Jul 01, 2018 6:01 am

This is done all the time in civil engineering - they are called meeting minutes inviting the project team to correct anything.

If it’s a potentially adversial situation and you can’t email the other party I’d think emailing your lawyer the summary or formalizing the details of the dialogue in a word document would be steps about have a note on the back of a napkin.

I’ve even heard government officials say their notes have to be in a certain type of notebook that would be hard to replace pages.

Dottie57
Posts: 4655
Joined: Thu May 19, 2016 5:43 pm

Re: How to document a verbal conversation for future legal reasons.

Post by Dottie57 » Sun Jul 01, 2018 7:11 am

Notarizing the letter might work too. It would definitely date the letter.

User avatar
snackdog
Posts: 345
Joined: Wed Nov 12, 2014 4:57 am

Re: How to document a verbal conversation for future legal reasons.

Post by snackdog » Sun Jul 01, 2018 7:52 am

You asked for how to document a verbal conversation, but received mostly advice of how to put it on paper, in which case it is no longer verbal but becomes written which is completely different.

If it is strictly verbal, the best way to use it for later legal considerations is to 1) legally record it and/or 2) have impartial witnesses who can recall what was said under oath . Judges and juries are not too impressed with verbal disagreement unless there is impartial corroboration.

PS I'm not an attorney and don't give legal advice. I don't know if anyone else dispensing advice here is an attorney either. If you have a legal issue it is to your advantage to consult an experienced attorney in your jurisdiction.

littlebird
Posts: 1403
Joined: Sat Apr 10, 2010 6:05 pm
Location: Valley of the Sun, AZ

Re: How to document a verbal conversation for future legal reasons.

Post by littlebird » Sun Jul 01, 2018 9:38 am

Most communication is verbal, that is, consisting of words. The correct term for non-written communication is “oral”.

User avatar
bottlecap
Posts: 5856
Joined: Tue Mar 06, 2007 11:21 pm
Location: Tennessee

Re: How to document a verbal conversation for future legal reasons.

Post by bottlecap » Sun Jul 01, 2018 10:26 am

Record it if it’s legal where you live. That’s about the only way to "document" it without committing it to writing in some form.

JT

Not Law
Posts: 190
Joined: Sun Sep 14, 2014 8:05 am

Re: How to document a verbal conversation for future legal reasons.

Post by Not Law » Sun Jul 01, 2018 11:10 am

littlebird wrote:
Sun Jul 01, 2018 9:38 am
Most communication is verbal, that is, consisting of words. The correct term for non-written communication is “oral”.
+1

DIFAR31
Posts: 147
Joined: Mon Jan 01, 2018 5:51 pm

Re: How to document a verbal conversation for future legal reasons.

Post by DIFAR31 » Sun Jul 01, 2018 2:00 pm

littlebird wrote:
Sun Jul 01, 2018 9:38 am
Most communication is verbal, that is, consisting of words. The correct term for non-written communication is “oral”.
So American Sign Language is oral communication?

User avatar
corn18
Posts: 1006
Joined: Fri May 22, 2015 6:24 am

Re: How to document a verbal conversation for future legal reasons.

Post by corn18 » Sun Jul 01, 2018 2:49 pm

DIFAR31 wrote:
Sun Jul 01, 2018 2:00 pm
littlebird wrote:
Sun Jul 01, 2018 9:38 am
Most communication is verbal, that is, consisting of words. The correct term for non-written communication is “oral”.
So American Sign Language is oral communication?
Negative

"Here’s the traditional distinction: Verbal applies to things that are put into words, whether written or spoken, while oral pertains to the mouth, to medications taken by mouth, and to things that are spoken.

English authorities have traditionally urged against using verbal in reference to spoken things—for example, verbal/oral communications, verbal/oral reports, and verbal/oral warnings—but verbal is increasingly used in these phrases, perhaps in part due to oral‘s prurient associations. But oral is still a good word, so one does not have to follow the trend toward favoring verbal. Still, using verbal in the newer way is not wrong, as it is sanctioned by common, widespread usage and is by no means new."

"Most people use phrases like “verbal agreement,” “oral exam,” and “verbal abuse” without really stopping to consider what they mean. As copy editors, we don't have that luxury.

Sometimes, as these examples show, oral and verbal are used as synonyms. But should they be?

Purists (aka Grammar Nazis, errorists, grammaticasters) will tell you that verbal refers only to being composed of words (or, for linguists, of verbs) and can never be used simply to mean “spoken.” If you mean “spoken,” they'll tell you, use oral.

But such a black-and-white pronouncement leads to problems in the vast gray world of interpersonal communication.

Some things that are oral have nothing to do with the spoken word

In the instances when one must choose between oral and verbal, the thing is likely both. For example, an oral exam is also a verbal exam because it deals with words — in this case, spoken words.

Unless, of course, you're at the orthodontist, where an oral exam involves an up-close-and-personal look at your pie hole, and oral history means something different from your family stories. Oral means more than just “spoken”; it means “of or pertaining to the mouth,” and because it can be applied to a much wider area, oral offers a greater opportunity for (sometimes embarrassing) misunderstandings than verbal does.

People have used verbal to mean “spoken” for centuries

As Gabe Doyle noted in a post on Motivated Grammar, “the first attestation of verbal meaning 'conveyed by speech' comes in 1617,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary, and it has been used as such ever since. In fact, based on Google Ngrams results, verbal agreements and contracts were more common than oral agreements and contracts until the first decade of the twentieth century. I can't account for the shift in the 1900s, but it's worth noting that all four forms are still used regularly and fairly interchangeably, and the likelihood that all — or even most — of those verbal agreements and contracts were written down seems pretty low.

What's an editor to do?

As I've written before, etymology tells us where a word came from, not what it means. Words are defined by how people use them.

In the case of oral and verbal, there's no simple rule. Editors must be aware of the sometimes subtle differences these words can present and the possible misreadings that may follow and then make the best choice.

For example, there is a clear difference between an assessment test that has a verbal section and one that has an oral section. Referring to someone's “oral and written skills” may be clearer and more exact than talking about their “verbal and written skills,” which some will label as redundant.

But on the other hand, verbal abuse becomes oral abuse only when someone either starts biting or takes a hit to the mouth.

Grammaticasters may try to restrict verbal to meaning “consisting of words,” but English usage has made it synonymous with, and sometimes a better choice than, oral."
Last edited by corn18 on Sun Jul 01, 2018 2:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.

littlebird
Posts: 1403
Joined: Sat Apr 10, 2010 6:05 pm
Location: Valley of the Sun, AZ

Re: How to document a verbal conversation for future legal reasons.

Post by littlebird » Sun Jul 01, 2018 2:51 pm

DIFAR31 wrote:
Sun Jul 01, 2018 2:00 pm
littlebird wrote:
Sun Jul 01, 2018 9:38 am
Most communication is verbal, that is, consisting of words. The correct term for non-written communication is “oral”.
So American Sign Language is oral communication?
I would say-digital

123
Posts: 3824
Joined: Fri Oct 12, 2012 3:55 pm

Re: How to document a verbal conversation for future legal reasons.

Post by 123 » Sun Jul 01, 2018 2:53 pm

If these "future legal reasons" involve your current employment about all you can do is to keep your own notes. Depending on the situation you could send an email copy to your manger and HR department (of course HR is on the company's side regardless of what they may tell you). Once you send anyting written to your manager and/or company they are more or less on notice that there could be futue legal issues. Depending on the situation that could be helpful or harmful.
The closest helping hand is at the end of your own arm.

autolycus
Posts: 172
Joined: Thu Jul 31, 2014 3:01 pm

Re: How to document a verbal conversation for future legal reasons.

Post by autolycus » Mon Jul 02, 2018 9:27 am

jastevenson wrote:
Sat Jun 30, 2018 4:16 pm
What is the most legally valid way to document that a verbal conversation occurred?

For example, I could write down on a sheet of paper "Today, 6/30, I spoke with Mr. Jones, and he said 'XYZ'" and put it in a safe, but that seems pretty weak from a legal perspective.

Any thoughts/experiences would be greatly appreciated!
You've gotten some decent answers on how you might document things after the fact. It is worth noting that from a rules of evidence perspective, pretty much anything you write is hearsay anyway. It is helpful to you to recall the details of the conversation, which might make you appear more credible. However, the notes themselves are not legal proof of anything beyond the fact that you wrote something down.

dbr
Posts: 27207
Joined: Sun Mar 04, 2007 9:50 am

Re: How to document a verbal conversation for future legal reasons.

Post by dbr » Mon Jul 02, 2018 9:33 am

These replies suggest that if this issue is really important people should conclude an agreement in writing rather than rely on oral. Maybe the problem is that one party does not agree to do that or is no longer accessible.

Luckywon
Posts: 198
Joined: Tue Mar 28, 2017 10:33 am

Re: How to document a verbal conversation for future legal reasons.

Post by Luckywon » Mon Jul 02, 2018 10:20 am

How about summarizing the conversation in an email to yourself? Simple and puts a time stamp on it.

dbr
Posts: 27207
Joined: Sun Mar 04, 2007 9:50 am

Re: How to document a verbal conversation for future legal reasons.

Post by dbr » Mon Jul 02, 2018 11:26 am

Luckywon wrote:
Mon Jul 02, 2018 10:20 am
How about summarizing the conversation in an email to yourself? Simple and puts a time stamp on it.
There were a couple of suggestions like this. I am not sure, but wouldn't all such things fail to stand up against no proof that both the timing and the content might be/have been manipulated. Maybe you have to write something and then get it legally recorded at a public office to make this stick. But that is why I wonder if a person is really serious if one does not just need a bona-fide written agreement.

A case in point is that it used to be that when you sold shares under Specific ID you had to get the broker to send you a written confirmation at the time regarding what shares you told them to sell. You can't just write a letter to yourself documenting what you said because you can manipulate that, but you can't manipulate what the broker has in their files. The critical step is that the broker writes to you. I guess this would mean that you need the person you are agreeing with to send you an email, but then that is written contract or MoU and not an oral agreement.

Luckywon
Posts: 198
Joined: Tue Mar 28, 2017 10:33 am

Re: How to document a verbal conversation for future legal reasons.

Post by Luckywon » Mon Jul 02, 2018 12:26 pm

dbr wrote:
Mon Jul 02, 2018 11:26 am
Luckywon wrote:
Mon Jul 02, 2018 10:20 am
How about summarizing the conversation in an email to yourself? Simple and puts a time stamp on it.
There were a couple of suggestions like this. I am not sure, but wouldn't all such things fail to stand up against no proof that both the timing and the content might be/have been manipulated. Maybe you have to write something and then get it legally recorded at a public office to make this stick.
Yes, but there may be no applicable public office to turn to. Ultimately the answer, or good advice, must depend to a large degree on what the conversation pertains to. OP care to provide any detail?

Cruise
Posts: 656
Joined: Mon Nov 21, 2016 7:17 pm

Re: How to document a verbal conversation for future legal reasons.

Post by Cruise » Mon Jul 02, 2018 12:27 pm

If in a one-party consent state, tape your telephone call:

https://www.tapeacall.com/#signup

afan
Posts: 3884
Joined: Sun Jul 25, 2010 4:01 pm

Re: How to document a verbal conversation for future legal reasons.

Post by afan » Mon Jul 02, 2018 2:03 pm

If this is important then you should consult a lawyer.

I am not a lawyer. I have seen cases where two parties, who were by that time adversaries, stated very different recollections of conversations. Without a written agreement all the lawyer's could agree on was that they disagreed.

If this conversation has already taken place, it would be best to convert it from an oral to a written agreement, with all the formalities. If it is yet to take place and you are planning ahead, it would be best to agree that, once all the issues have been resolved, you will both agree on a single written document that contains what you discussed.

Atmospherics may require delicacy in how you present this. But for business purposes everyone should expect things in writing. Even with the best of intentions and good will, writing it down avoids misunderstanding.

Years ago, en route to becoming a boglehead, my suspicions about stock brokers and insurance salespeople were first aroused when the innocous suggestion "I don't have time to discuss it right now. Why don't you write it down and send it to me?" got nowhere. They would love to talk but refused to put anything in writing. Before I understood what was going on I used to have these comical conversations where I would point out that, if I bought the policy I would be signing a written contract, so why not also write down the representations on which I relied in deciding to buy?

I know how absurd that sounds now, but back then it made sense to me. Those conversations lead me to investment companies that provided service but did not make investment recommendations- Vanguard. It also lead to insurance companies that would put the entire proposal in writing and respond to questions the same way- USAA.

Only later did I learn about market efficiency and how insurance commissions worked. My original move to these companies was to avoid playing games with people who wanted not to be responsible for what they said.
We don't know how to beat the market on a risk-adjusted basis, and we don't know anyone that does know either | --Swedroe | We assume that markets are efficient, that prices are right | --Fama

Post Reply