You are entitled to high standards of legal advice and representation and your solicitor must act in accordance with a range of legal duties owed to clients. At the same time a successful solicitor/client relationship requires cooperation on both sides. There are various things you can do to help your solicitor.
Give full and clear instructions
To represent your interests successfully your solicitor needs information. Being candid about your matter, including its history and what you are trying to achieve, will help your solicitor provide better advice. It is important for a solicitor to know all details as soon as possible so he or she is not surprised, especially if a court case is involved. Facts which may not seem important to you may have significant legal consequences.
It is a solicitor’s duty to maintain the strictest confidentiality about their clients so you need not feel embarrassed or afraid, or conceal facts that are unfavourable to you.
Be honest and lawful
It is unwise to lie to your solicitor or to expect your solicitor to uphold a mistruth, particularly if you are involved in a court case. Solicitors have a duty not to mislead the Court. For instance, if you supply false information in an affidavit or false evidence during a case and you do not allow your solicitor to correct the misinformation, your solicitor must withdraw from your case. So you could end up without proper representation and have the expense of finding a new solicitor.
If you are involved in a criminal law matter, an admission of guilt will restrict how your solicitor can present your case to the Court.
Before you speak with or visit a solicitor, it is a good idea to write down a summary of your matter, including questions and the contact details of all persons involved. You will also need to collate any documents and show them to your solicitor. If you are not sure what is relevant, it is best to take along all documents pertaining to your matter and let your solicitor decide what is important. Being prepared will save your solicitor’s time and help to reduce your costs.
So that your solicitor can serve you efficiently follow his or her instructions as quickly as possible. For instance your solicitor may request more information or documentation. Use or ask for a checklist of what you need to provide and when.
Understand the fees and costs
Solicitors are required by law to tell you about their fees and other expenses before they start working for you. This is known as the duty of disclosure. There are numerous ways solicitors can charge their fees.
As the client you have a duty to promptly pay a fair and reasonable price for legal services. If you fail to pay, your solicitor can stop working for you in some situations.
The law is complex with lots of unfamiliar words and processes. If you are confused or have any questions, ask your solicitor for an explanation as soon as possible. This will minimise the likelihood of misunderstandings further down the track. Don’t sign any document until you fully understand what it is about. Get your solicitor to address any concerns you have.
Keep in contact
Legal issues can take a long time to resolve. Your solicitor should keep you up to date with the progress of your matter. Agree on how frequently you will be informed and by what method, such as telephone or letter.
Also inform your solicitor immediately if the circumstances of your matter or personal circumstances change. Even slight changes may mean that your solicitor will have to take a different approach.
Keep your own case file
You should retain the working contract or letter of agreement between you and your solicitor. Be sure to ask for and keep copies of all letters and documents prepared on your behalf.
Trust your solicitor
To practise law in the ACT solicitors must have successfully completed a law degree and a practical legal training course. Once they are practising solicitors, the Law Society helps to ensure their skills and knowledge are up to date by imposing mandatory legal education requirements.
Carefully consider what your solicitor advises you to do. Their advice is based on years of experience and training. Sometimes the best course of action may not be what you want to hear, but your solicitor, as your advocate, is obliged to have your best legal interests at heart.