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Keeping a Daily Journal

Keeping a Daily Journal

Keeping a Daily Journal

This is something that I hope all of us do... especially if we are licensed and stamping drawings for public works projects.  

My question is, how do you do it?  I've heard rumors of some type journals not standing up in courts because it was reputed to have been made after litigation began, no date stamp, etc.  I have recently been emailing myself my daily journal entries.  This puts a date stamp on it and you know there is an electronic trail should the journal entries be questioned.  I then print a copy that goes in my three ring binder and save a pdf copy as well.  

Plus I can type so much quicker than I can write! :)

What is everyone's thought on this as being a good date stamp on the daily journal?

RE: Keeping a Daily Journal

I wouldn't count on an email time stamp as irrefutable evidence... court cases have been won based upon them being so, but I wouldn't count on it.

Dan - Owner

RE: Keeping a Daily Journal

What do you suggest then?

RE: Keeping a Daily Journal

I've been told that a bound journal with all relevant information is all that is required.  I know some of my PE buddies use bound journals.  I do and back things up with email, when necessary.  Sometimes things get too complicated  with email and meetings to write up in a journal.

RE: Keeping a Daily Journal

It is just so much quicker for me to type something than to write it out by hand.  I can't see how my journals wouldn't be admissible in court.

I start each out with a date and a news headline.  Yes, I'm paranoid.  I keep the email open the whole day and type things as they happen.  At the end of the day I send it to my work email and Cc it to a personal hotmail email address.  I just can't see how the electronic stamp and the unopened emails on two different servers wouldn't be proof enough.


RE: Keeping a Daily Journal

A company I know considers itself as a "technology" company, mostly doing R&D work.  The value of the company is the Intellectual Property that it produces, and the potential revenue it receives from licensing the IP.  It's a lawyer's dreamland.

Company culture is for all of them folks to carry a bound notebook.  They are all instructed to constantly write pertinent information in it, meetings & attendees, attach graphs / charts / sketches or anything else of potential IP value.  Hand written notes, and in BLUE ink.  The philosophy is to capture and validate the information so that years later the legal team can spend man-months and millions of dollars of research effort and dig up the crumpled Post-It Note with the hand-scribble that clearly identifies who had the multi-billion-dollar idea FIRST.

I suppose that there is some merit in that.  It makes everything there move much slower than normal.  And everyone talks like they are discussing important subjects with a competitor's patent attorney.

In a contentious customer negotiation with sharp & aggressive legal teams involved, something like that could be very valuable.


Blue Technik LLC
Virtuoso Robotics Engineering

RE: Keeping a Daily Journal

Quote (UnneautralAxis):

I just can't see how the electronic stamp and the unopened emails on two different servers wouldn't be proof enough.
Because you're relying on bits stored on a hard drive as evidence in a court case... bits that can be altered very easily with no trace of their alteration.  Or you have no control over those bits (someone else's server) and they're are removed just before you need them.

You need to be putting these ideas in a bound notebook, one that has each page numbered from the factory, and signed off on a regular basis by someone who can review the notes were entered without a bunch of whitespace (no empty pages).  They don't have to understand it.

As a sole owner, I occasionally take my idea book to a notary.  They stamp and sign the most recent page, and they also sign a page at the front of the book I've reserved with a note stating all work was done in pen and they did not see any significant whitespace from the last stamping.  It's not ideal, but it's the best I can do.

Dan - Owner

RE: Keeping a Daily Journal

True, and your points do seem reasonable.  Just seems to me, you could send it to enough email servers that it would be nearly irrefutable.  Otherwise, why should I print emails that others send me and put in a project file.  Should we be date stamping these too by a notary?  I'm not being contrary here, these are serious questions.  I've never been to court and hope I never do, but I want to very effectively document what goes on in my office.  

FYI, I am a sole proprietor as well.

RE: Keeping a Daily Journal

In court it's more like there is a continuum of credibility.  Bound paper journals trump emails trump memory.  An undated scribble on a piece of newspaper or napkin is useful in the face of no other evidence to the contrary.  I keep a journal on my iPhone which is stored when I sync it with my computer.  I'm sure there is a time stamp of some kind attached to the file, although someone could argue that I have the ability to edit a date and time on an entry on my phone.  I have had no reason to try and retrieve the jounal entries from my laptop, but I'm sure it can be done.  I know you can retrieve SMS messages (with special software) of any phone, not just your own, that you have synced on your computer and those have dates, times, incoming, outgoing phone numbers, and any jpegs, wav files, movies, or any other attachments that someone sends to you or you to them.  

"Gorgeous hair is the best revenge."  Ivana Trump

RE: Keeping a Daily Journal

OK.  Asked my lawyer about this and this is what he said.

I think that your question about whether it would be "valid" in court is really asking whether or not these records would be admissible at a trial?  Emails are used at trial all the time.  Millions of dollars are spent by huge corporations to comb through emails for litigation purposes.  Entire departments are dedicated at large companies like P&G solely to this task. So, to answer your question, there is nothing about the message being an electronic mail that would make it inadmissible as evidence. Whether or not a document is admissible usually turns on the purpose for admission, not its form.  My advice is that keeping a journal of your daily tasks is almost always a good idea.  I don't see anything wrong with keeping it in your email, or even in a word doc.  I think the important thing is that you establish a pattern of doing it day in and day out so that it is more of a formal/legitimate "business record."

RE: Keeping a Daily Journal

You didn't ask about admissibility, you asked about it standing up in court... two different things.  Plenty of stuff is admissible, but if the prosecution (or defense) can provide reasonable doubt as to that item's authenticity or veracity, admissibility is irrelevant.

Dan - Owner

RE: Keeping a Daily Journal

In my career, I've met exactly one guy who was really using bound journals properly.  He never wrote in anything else, and everything he wrote went into one.  ... even his personal grocery lists.  He probably filled one in a month or so.

At another place, I kept one myself.  ... not to that level, but most of my technical stuff was recorded there, or in later years, a note describing where to find the core material.

In recent years, I've been in the habit of keeping simple chron files using MS Notepad, which conveniently inserts a timestamp when you press <F5>.  I usually keep one per project, and another for stuff that's not associated with a particular project.  They're pretty handy for figuring out what you were doing on a particular day in the past, and can be globally searched (using, e.g., Agent Ransack) for particular phrases or names.  I haven't had occasion to get them tested in court.

One thing that has turned out to be useful in pre-litigation negotiations with a hostile customer is an old email to the effect that "What you're proposing is not going to work properly without as-installed measurements and adjustments; please contact us when you're ready."  He hadn't contacted us, the system as he installed it misbehaved as I said it would, and a simple adjustment by us would have fixed it, so the lawsuit never materialized.


Mike Halloran
Pembroke Pines, FL, USA

RE: Keeping a Daily Journal

For years I have used only spiral notebooks, never three ring as they can be changed too easily.  With spirals, you cannot add anything to the sequence, anything of any size anyway, and removed pages can be detected.  

I was told by my lawyer that this form of note daily taking makes for much better evidence in court.

Mike McCann
MMC Engineering
Motto:  KISS
Motivation:  Don't ask

RE: Keeping a Daily Journal

What kind of spiral?  If it's welded, then fine... if it's the standard metal spiral kids use in high-school, then no.  A few seconds of untwisting the end, then rolling the spiral out makes adding/removing pages quite easy.

Dan - Owner

RE: Keeping a Daily Journal

My old place in the UK had really nice hard back log books to use, I was religious my first year or two, got a bit lax after that.

Now my current place just has soft back bound note pads.  They're OK but after about 6 months look really tatty even if only 1/8 or so full.

Lately I've been trying to be a bit more diligent on keeping them up to date.

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RE: Keeping a Daily Journal

Partly do to this thread I looked at my own journal-keeping, which I'm ashamed to say consisted of chicken-scratch in a Franklin-Covey planner and a stack of filled up steno pads.

In an attempt to modernize and clean things up a bit, I swapped myself over to an HTML logbook on my laptop. It's professional looking and seems to work pretty well. I can include photos, diagrams, and tie everything together with hyperlinks. CSS allows me to maintain consistent formatting. I'm also planning on trying out the Greasemonkey extension to Firefox so that I can also include LaTeX equations in my entries. Overall, it's shaping up quite nicely. I've also set it up so that I can print out entries by the month.

I'm mostly worried about about general record keeping; it's hard to remember why you did what you did months or years after the fact. However, I think that it would be reasonable to take the "created on" and "last modified" dates on the files to court. Any record can be altered after the fact; I don't know that the authenticity of a paper journal is necessarily much more believable.

Overall, I find that it's just easier for me to keep files organized on a computer than in a file cabinet or otherwise. The HTML format especially forces you to use logical file placement.

The email journal mentioned above sounds like a great idea. Knowing myself, though, I think that this method works better for me. To each their own, right? I wonder what other methods people use. It seems like one of those things where there's no right way to do it.

Here's it looks
HTML files for each month
Directory structure

RE: Keeping a Daily Journal

"It seems like one of those things where there's no right way to do it."

I wouldn't say that... it is one of those things where everyone has their own way of doing it and think that it's the only way that would stand up in court.

I just can't be convinced that the email way of doing it wouldn't be sufficient.  I've talked to two lawyers about it and they both agree, so I'm going to continue doing it this way.  I worry about a fire taking my hand written journals.  In this day and age, I refuse to believe that a hand written journal is the only real way to go.

I created a hotmail account solely for sending the journal entries to in addition to my work email address.  So every entry ends up in two separate email addresses.  Both will agree in subject matter and dates.  Honestly, that would convince me if I were on the jury...

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