Instructing a solicitor can feel like a big step, especially if it’s your first time. As with any new experience, what’s unknown and unfamiliar can seem daunting. How do you know what to expect? Equally, even if you have instructed a solicitor before, perhaps you just jumped through the hoops of file opening, to get stuck into the meat of your matter. In this blog, we’ll demystify our process. We’ll explain the information you’ll be asked for and why it’s important and we’ll unpack some of the key terms you’ll come across.
Book an initial free consultation
It all starts with a friendly chat. There’s no charge for this and we usually spend 30 minutes finding out about why you want to instruct a solicitor and whether we’re a good fit for you. We’ll discuss your objectives and what you hope to achieve.
If it is clear that we can work together, we will then arrange a scoping call with you to dig into the real detail of your needs. This is to allow us to be able to get to grips with exactly what you need, the value we can bring and provide us with enough information to quote. Ideally this will take around 1 hour. We will then provide you with a quote which will detail what you need, what we will do for you and the investment needed from you.
Once the quote is accepted we will send you our engagement letter.
Letter of Engagement – read it, check it, sign it
You’ll be issued with a letter of engagement, which is essentially the contract that defines your relationship with your solicitor. You’ll find key information here including:
The client: You might think it sounds obvious to define who the client is, but it’s important we get this right, especially in litigation matters. We need to identify the key people in the company who are authorised to give instructions and receive advice, so that your communications are protected by legal privilege.
Scope: We provide you with an overview of the actions we’ll take to achieve your goals in your matter. If the scope changes, you’ll receive an updated engagement letter that reflects what’s now in scope.
Your advisors: A list of the advisors working on your matter and their qualifications.
Fees: Is it a fixed fee or will you be charged by the billable hour? We’ll discuss the options with you first and we’ll agree a fee structure that is most cost-effective for your matter. The rates of each of the solicitors working on your matter will be set out clearly.
Cost estimate: if we are not able to fix the fees for any reason, a rough idea of the likely cost of the matter. You’ll receive frequent updates on costs throughout your matter to keep you in the loop.
Billing: Whether you’ll receive a bill every month, every six months, or at the end of the matter.
Funding arrangements: Relevant details for ‘Help with Fees’ (if you qualify). We’ll set out details of any Conditional Funding Arrangement, if it’s suitable for your matter.
It’s important that you read and understand your engagement letter, and then sign a copy and return it to your solicitor.
Know your Client (KYC) checks
Before we’re able to begin any work, we have to do some routine Anti-Money Laundering checks. These are run-of-the-mill checks that all solicitors do in every case. You’ll need to provide:
· Proof of your identity (a passport or driver’s licence); and
· Proof of address (a utility bill)
If we’re acting for your company, we’ll check the beneficial ownership and where the company is registered.
Read your ‘Preservation Notice’
This is a requirement in litigation so if we are doing anything else for you this won't apply. It can look a bit scary if you’re not expecting it! In litigation matters, solicitors need to inform you of your obligations to preserve documents. There’s good reason for this. Essentially, you need your documents for evidence! And you have to disclose documents to the other side, whether or not they are directly helpful to your case.
We just need to make sure that you don’t go off and start a big bonfire of any unhelpful evidence. That’s against the rules of the game.
What your ‘Client Account’ is for
Your solicitor might request money for your client account. The client account is ‘sacrosanct’ and completely separate from the bank account of the solicitors’ firm.
When you issue a claim in court, you’ll need to pay a court fee. The size of the fee depends on the value of your dispute. We’ll usually ask for the fee before it’s due to court and this will be kept in the client account until the claim is issued.
There are strict rules from the Solicitors Regulation Authority, which regulate the use of client accounts. If you decide not to issue your claim, the money will be returned to you (with interest) as soon as possible.
Dig out your key documents
When you instruct a solicitor, we’ll need to see the key documents that are relevant to the advice you need.
That’s a brief overview of what you can expect when you instruct a solicitor. If you’re ready to take the leap, we’ll be happy to help you. Simply get in touch, and we’ll get started on resolving your legal issues.