Intake Procedures and Conflict Checks
At no time during the initial intake of prospective clients may anyone other than a student-attorney or attorney in the clinic provide legal advice or opinions regarding a taxpayer’s possible course of action. Only after a case is accepted and all relevant facts are gathered should advice be given, and then only by the student attorney assigned to the case or his or her supervisor. A student attorney handling intake should limit his or her conversation with a taxpayer to gathering the basic information needed to complete the intake form and performing the initial conflicts check.
However, a student attorney handling intake may provide advice to taxpayer with respect to time sensitive matters such as pending levies and expiring statutory notices. They can advise taxpayers to call the IRS directly if time is of the essence, while responding to the intake questionnaire and waiting for acceptance of their case. For example, in situations involving an expiring statutory notice, it is appropriate to talk the taxpayer through how to petition the Tax Court. In addition, they can (and should) normally inform clients to file delinquent tax returns. If any student attorney handling intake is uncertain whether to furnish advice or information to a taxpayer, the student attorney should consult with Professor Timm or Ms. Rich.
During the intake telephone conversation a preliminary conflict check should be conducted. Both open and closed cases should be searched to determine if there is a match with the taxpayer’s name. In addition, the taxpayer should be asked whether any relative or former spouse has ever been served by the clinic. Any potential conflict should be immediately brought to the attention of one of the supervising attorneys. No confidential information should be gathered once a conflict is identified. To perform the initial conflicts check, select “People” in AMICUS and then, at the top, “Actions” then, in the drop down menu, “Check Conflicts”. Type in the last name of the prospective client. Print out the list and attach it to the intake sheet. Don’t be concerned if the list of possible conflicts is long because AMICUS will pull up former students, IRS personnel, and others with the same last name.
If there are less than 5 possible names on the list, excluding students and IRS personnel, inquire as to whether any of those individuals are related to the prospective client. If 5 or more names appear, even if the the name is a common one, such as Brown, Jones, Patel etc…, give the intake sheet with the possible conflict names to your supervisor to complete the initial conflict check. Your supervisor will indicate on the “Check Conflict” sheet by initially if Questionnaire should be sent to the taxpayer. Regardless of the number of names, complete the intake sheet before giving it to your supervisor.