Friday, 17 February 2012

So you closed your case, what now?

I finished a matter recently that has taken nearly two years to reach an agreement.  The last three days before trial were a frenzy of negotiations between me, the opposing solicitor, and two recalcitrant clients. We finally reached an agreement where neither party got what they wanted, but neither party was TOO much inconvenienced. 

So what happens now?  The barrister filed the Consent Orders with the Court, the clients went home, we sent out our bills... end of story?

Not quite.  Firstly, the letter of advice to the client.  You have to explain what the Orders mean for them personally, and show how they address all of their concerns.  You then have to make sure that they will be able to obey the Orders without coming back to us.

The next thing is to make it quite clear that our instructions have ceased.  Once the final letter of advice has been sent out, WE ARE NOT THEIR LAWYER any more.  If they want to seek advice from us again, that is fine, but they will have to pay privately.  They could apply for legal aid again, but they might not get it.  In the mean time, we are no longer their avenue of correspondence with the other side.

Finally, you have to deal with the file.  In Aus, you have to keep files for a LONG time after you have finished with them.  There is some legislation that says you must keep any documents for at least 5 years after they are no longer relevant.  This causes some problems when your ownership of something might be dependent  upon a sale... 200 years ago. 

We keep files for at least seven years, then have a bonfire and destroy everything that isn't a Deed, Will, or other perpetual document.  This means that for this file, we are storing a filing-cabinet-drawer full of paper... for seven years. 

What else have I forgotten? 

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