I’m sure that it seems strange to be talking about Christmas when it’s the summer and we’re in the middle of a heatwave.

Or perhaps it’s even more strange to talk about diaries. Gone are the days when we all had physical diaries on our desks, that we wrote appointments in and used for keeping on top of our cases. Far more common to use apps on our phones. Gone also are the days when people kept proper diaries, where they wrote down all the activities of the day for posterity, and kept it secret from family and friends. These days, we’re more likely to broadcast our news on social media and invite everyone to comment.

Despite all of that, diaries are still an important and invaluable part of a solicitor’s armoury, and not just for recording important court deadlines, or remembering when we’re due in the pub. Not only can diaries be used to remind you of things you need to do in the future, they are also useful for reminding you what happened in the past, and can even be relied on as evidence of those things.

Which means that it is common for me to advise clients to keep diaries of ongoing events. For example, if they are in dispute with a spouse, and things are becoming acrimonious and we might want to go to court for, perhaps, a non molestation order, keeping a regular record of what the other party said and did over a period of time can be very helpful in preparing the witness statement and can even be relied on as evidence of what actually happened. If a Judge hears two different versions of events, about things that happened six months ago, where one witness is reporting what they remember, and the other is relying on what they wrote down at the time, it is likely that the court will prefer the written evidence over someone’s memory. Even the best and most reliable of people can forget important details over a period of time. That doesn’t mean that a court will find that they lied, but simply that they have misremembered. Someone who has contemporaneous notes of what happened at the time is not automatically going to be believed, because they could obviously have written down anything, but if a court accepts that they are an honest person, then their contemporaneous notes are likely to take priority.

That doesn’t of course, mean that you should be tempted to fake the evidence. I was involved in a case many years ago where the husband was trying to argue that the property we were trying to seize was rented out to a colleague. In support, he produced a “rent book” going back some years. Unfortunately, the entries in the book were in identical handwriting, and mostly in the same coloured pen. A handwriting expert quickly confirmed that everyone’s handwriting evolves over a period of time, so that the entries in a ledger covering a five year period should not be identical. The first entry will be different from the last. Also, the chances of the person being able to locate the exact same pen consecutively for 80% of the entries is unheard of, not to mention the fact that the book was in pristine condition. The court had no difficulty in finding that the rent book was fraudulent, and not only threw out the husband’s allegation, but awarded costs against him, which is also very unusual in family matters.

So whilst the old fashioned art of keeping a diary may have given way to more modern methods of record keeping, there are still plenty of benefits to keeping notes of what you are up to, provided you are not trying to make your life sound more exciting than it actually is.

Kleyman & Co Solicitors. The full service law firm. Keeping note of what’s important.