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A few home truths and engaging your solicitor  

Years of litigation teaches a number of pithy home truths which prove true or are repeated time after time, and are worth taking careful note of.

Failing to recognise them will almost always result in your dispute costing you a lot more than it could have done.

So what are they?

1. It is almost always better to settle than fight. There will obviously be occasions when it suits you to keep your opponent engaged in litigation. This is expensive, an attitude discouraged by the Court and usually represents a chunky gamble on success.

2. Unless your opponent has been spectacularly unreasonable (which does happen – for example, referring to point one – someone who fights on in litigation when they obviously should have settled), success at trial will rarely (if ever) mean you get all your claim, all your costs and all your interest back.

3. Can you realistically put to one side the time and energy which has to be devoted to litigation if it is going to be successful?

4. Always build in ‘Kentucky windage’. Kentucky windage is what is allowed by a marksman for the time between his shot and the moving target coinciding with it. Leeway. Make sure you have some if possible.

5. It is rarely advisable to leave any step in litigation until the last minute.

6. Never litigate because ‘it is a matter of principle’. Your lawyer will see this as Christmas come early.

Engaging with the solicitor

Litigation solicitors usually bill by time spent and don’t ‘pad’ or take advantage of clients – a specifically short sighted business strategy for lawyers. Rather they bill fairly for something which may be over in a couple of telephone calls or equally might go on for 20 years.  As time is so crucial, you should plan how you are going to use your solicitor’s time before you go to see them, working in particular on clear presentation of the facts and documents yourself in advance.

What does this advanced preparation actually mean?

Send your solicitor a detailed statement, cross indexed with key documents in advance. The more detail the better. Make sure your appeal is ‘warts and all’. In litigation there is nowhere to hide, and if you have an ‘Achilles Heel’ , tell your lawyer. They are on your side and can advise how best to tackle weaknesses considering their impact.

Try and limit telephone calls, letters and emails and get an estimate for each stage and make sure your solicitor sticks to it. A solicitor who does not stick within reason to their estimate may not be entitled to receive sums which meaningfully exceed it. This is to make sure clients know what their cost exposure is.

Look out for part three of our guides to making litigation cheaper, which will be published next week. You can find part one of this series by clicking here. For more information, email blogs@gateleyuk.com.


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This blog is intended only as a synopsis of certain recent developments. If any matter referred to in this blog is sought to be relied upon, further advice should be obtained.