Using a lawyer
It is helpful to know what you might expect when you meet your lawyer for the first time.
Before the meeting
It is sensible to make notes before the meeting of the main points about your legal case. You should include any questions you want to ask about your case, including the likely outcome. You will want to make sure you understand how much your case will cost, when you will have to pay, or if you can pay in instalments. You should collect all relevant documents to take with you, such as letters from another legal firm or court papers.
At the meeting
You will be asked to provide identity documents because lawyers are legally required to take this information from their clients.
Your lawyer will ask questions to make sure they understand what your legal problem is and what you want them to do for you. Your lawyer will explain what they can do for you and the timescale for doing your work. Your lawyer will give you details of the price of the work and any additional costs that you will have to pay, such as court or search fees.
After the first meeting
After your first meeting, your lawyer will provide you with a Client Care Letter thanking you for instructing them. This letter will set out the firm’s terms for carrying out work for you.
The letter should include the following:
- name of the lawyer dealing with your case
- name of the person supervising your lawyer if there is a supervisor
- information you gave to your lawyer
- the work you want done
- your lawyer’s advice to you
- the work your lawyer will do for you
- the action(s) you need to take
- timescale for doing the work and how they will communicate with you (phone, email, letter)
The letter should also explain the costs for doing your work, including:
- the price
- how your costs will be worked out, for example, a fixed fee or an hourly rate
- details of other costs (disbursements), for example, for an expert’s report or court fees
- which costs VAT will be charged on and the rate
- extra charges, such as for late bill payment or payment by credit card
The letter should provide you with information about the firm’s complaints procedure, including:
- how to complain should you need to
- the name of the person to contact with a complaint
- the time it will take for your complaint to be dealt with
- how to contact the Legal Ombudsman if you are dissatisfied with the outcome of your complaint
- how to contact Newcastle Regulation
- the firm’s Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII) details
What to expect during your case
It is important to tell your lawyer about any change in your circumstances, or other information that you find out about, because this might affect your case. You should make it clear to your lawyer what you want them to do for you.
Your lawyer should regularly explain the work they are doing for you. They will also explain what they can do and what they should be able to achieve for you.
Your lawyer should regularly tell you about the progress of your case, how much your costs are and the further costs you will need to pay to finish your case.
Sometimes something may happen on a case which had not been anticipated at the start. This may affect the final price and or the timescale for completing your case. Your lawyer should inform you about any changes to the price or timescale to complete your case, if they differ from what you were told at the start.
There may be times when what you want your lawyer to do for you is not legally possible, or your lawyer may advise you against taking the action you would like to take. If this happens your lawyer should guide you on the best action to take.
It is sensible to make a note of the names of the people you meet with, or have telephone conversations with, at the firm. Make notes of what you say and what is said to you.
Keep a record of everything you give to your lawyer or other people in the firm. For example, documents, papers, letters and possessions. If possible, make copies of these for yourself to keep.
You should save all letters and electronic communications you have with your lawyer, anyone from their office or other people connected with your case.
Make sure you understand the letters and other communications you receive from your lawyer or their firm. If you are unsure about anything, never be afraid to ask your lawyer to explain, or ask someone else for help.
Your lawyer may ask you to take some action, such as apply for a document or give them some paperwork. Be sure you understand what they want you to do. Let your lawyer know immediately if you are not able to do, or get, something.
Further information about what to expect from lawyers is available on Legal Choices.