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I'm in a lot of meetings on a daily basis. So I usually take notes to help me remember what we discussed during the meeting and to have a backlog of any tasks I might need to perform.

Recently I've been taking digital notes with OneNote (in stead of just writing them down in a paper notebook). Everyone knows I take digital notes (it is kind of hard not to notice) and so often I'm asked to share my notes on a particular meeting because my colleagues didn't take any, or insufficient notes. Considering they always ask in a friendly manner, I'm happy to share my notes with them.

But, this has got me thinking; can my client force me to hand over my notes to them (against my will)?

Some background information:

  • I am an independent contractor for my client
  • I work on my own laptop (professionally, provided by my own company)
  • Most of the information that is discussed during meetings is of a sensitive nature. Thus, I take care to protect my notes and I only share my notes with colleagues who are also entitled to this information.
  • I am bound by a non-disclosure agreement so I cannot share the notes with anyone else (other than people working for my client who have my level of authorization), but this is not the subject of the question nor does my NDA or contract say anything about me having to share my notes with my client.
  • The fact that my notes are digital are not that relevant to the question, the same would apply to paper notes, but digital notes are a lot easier to share (and considering my bad handwriting) a lot easier to read
  • Some of my notes might contain personal thoughts or tasks. Nothing NSFW or anything like that, but things I'd prefer not to share with my client.

closed as off-topic by gnat, IDrinkandIKnowThings, DarkCygnus, The Wandering Dev Manager, OldPadawan Aug 26 '18 at 16:01

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    Why would you want to withhold information that's already been discussed in the meeting with the people who were actually in the meeting? – Snow Aug 24 '18 at 12:44
  • I wouldn't necessarily. But as I said in the question, I might have personal notes in there that are of no concern to them. Some employee of my client might request to see my notes while they might not have access to that level of information (my client is the company, not the people that work for the company). It could be any of a number of other reasons too; at this point I don't have a specific reason in mind. – ElGringoMagnifico Aug 24 '18 at 12:51
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    So you somehow can't remove your own personal notes before distributing the rest of the minutes? I guess I'm just misunderstanding things here. – Snow Aug 24 '18 at 12:54
  • For the sake of the question: imagine I can't. In reality: yes, I would be able to. The thing is that I have such a high number of notes that it would take a lot of time to correct them for the particular person asking for the notes. Consider that I'm asking about transferring all of my notes to the client (when my job is finished for example) instead of just the notes for one meeting. If an employee would ask me to transfer all of my notes I would just rather decline (because of the amount of work that would be) rather than verifying and adapting all of my notes. – ElGringoMagnifico Aug 24 '18 at 13:03
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    I think as asked this question is off topic. But if you were to ask how to address your client demanding to see your notes it would be on topic. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Aug 24 '18 at 17:48
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Taking notes for yourself is very different than creating official notes for a meeting. My personal notes often contain private thoughts, lots of abbreviations, strange pointers to related issues and references to context that's incomprehensible to anyone else.

Official notes are something very different: Good notes have a consistent format, contain list of participants, agenda, issues discussed, decisions, action items, next steps, etc. That's a sizable chunk of work. If you are asked to do this, you should allocate official work time for it (and bill it accordingly).

IMO a decent reply to the request could be

I don't think it makes sense to share my personal notes. I use a personalized style of note taking that would be really hard to read by anyone else and would hardly make any sense to you. If we want to have official meeting notes, we should decide on format and requirements of the notes and figure out the best way to go about it. If you want me to be the note taker, I will have to add this to my task list, since it typically takes an extra half hour or so to properly format, organize and publish good notes.

  • Good point but an expensive contractor is not very cost-effective as a note taker suggest they use a Secretarial /Support resource to do this and doing notes/minutes will take longer than 1/2 an hour for any non trivial meeting. – Neuromancer Aug 25 '18 at 13:19
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As a general rule you should never hand over rough or draft anything. Someone who doesn't like you or your company could obtain a copy and claim it's an example of the shoddy work you do. You shouldn't even give them to colleagues who "ask in a friendly manner." You shouldn't dig in your heels and refuse, though. Just tell them your notes need smoothing, and they'll have to wait.

As for whether they can force you: they can't, unless there's something in your contract that specifically says what you should hand over. In Government contracts it's common for the contractor to provide a data accession list, a list of the tangible data products prepared in the course of the contract that aren't required to be delivered. The government, for a price, can order copies of them.

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One is a neutral / objective profession or job description (secretary, minute / note taker) the other is your personal notes.

The former is expected to inform all attendees / non-attendees, the latter is NOT.

If someone asks, you may still agree out of courtesy.

BUT:
Always create a transcript of your notes more in the form as one would expect from a note taker (remove all personal remarks etc.)
1) it is a more professional format
2) unless specified by contract you're not obliged to disclose your opinions or personal thoughts you wrote down.

NDA's often have a clause however to destroy or deliver all data / copies after the project, so follow that contract carefully.

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