FAQ on Advice and Representation in Court/Tribunal 

I need legal advice. How can I contact you?

For a quotation for advice about a civil law matter, such as a business or property dispute, send me an email explaining the background and attaching relevant documents (including Claim Form, Particulars of Claim, Defence and any other statements of case or application notices if court proceedings are current, or the equivalent documents if there are tribunal proceedings).

If it is a complex matter you don’t need to give all the details and all the documents in this initial email, just a summary.

Should I seek legal advice now or should I wait?

If you are in any doubt, seek legal advice now. The law, in many cases, imposes time limits which mean that if you have a legal claim which is otherwise valid, you may lose your rights if you do not start court/tribunal proceedings, or send a notice to another party, or take some other action, by a certain deadline. Even if you do not lose your rights completely, sometimes delay can mean that a court is less willing to exercise its discretion in your favour, or delay may cause practical problems in, for example, tracing witnesses, or obtaining documents held by other parties which may, for example, be automatically destroyed after a certain period. It is true that in some other cases the best advice may be, on the contrary, to let sleeping dogs lie and not take any immediate action (apart from keeping a record of events) as in certain circumstances allowing a situation to continue over a period of time can strengthen your legal case. However you will not know whether this applies to your case unless and until you seek legal advice. If you seek advice earlier than (as it turns out) you needed to, nothing is lost, whereas if you delay, there is the possibility that opportunities might be lost. 

A hearing in my case is coming up. I haven't asked you for advice before but can I engage you to represent me at the hearing?

Yes, if I am available on the hearing dates and the case is in an area of law I practise in such as a business or property dispute. Send me an email attaching the Notice of Hearing giving the hearing dates and giving a short explanation of what the case is about, and I will explain what further information I need for a quote to be given.

It is best to contact me as far in advance of the hearing as possible. One reason for this is to do with the logistics of production of the hearing bundle. Generally for every hearing, and certainly at a trial, a hearing bundle  - called a Trial Bundle if the hearing is a trial - has to be produced and delivered in advance. Most people who are involved in producing a Trial Bundle for the first time (or in seeking to ensure that the other side - if they are producing the Trial Bundle - include in it the required documents) are surprised at how drawn out  the process can be. This is due to a combination of the fact that the parties have to co-operate in agreeing what documents should be in the Trial Bundle, the fact that the Trial Bundle has to be delivered in the required number of copies by a deadline but the work of producing it can only start once the contents are agreed, and the fact that the other side may indulge in gamesmanship to try to get certain documents left out (such gamesmanship is strongly disapproved of by the courts/tribunals but the nature of the process makes it difficult to prove whether a party is being more than just inefficient). For most people the only certain way of ensuring that such difficulties can be dealt with is to load the documents required to be in the Trial Bundle into a system such as Caselines as described here or here (disclaimer: I mention these links just to give you a general appreciation of what might be involved in producing a bundle - the detail in the links is not intended to be used by anyone who has not yet entered into an agreement with me for the provision of legal services) and you would need to contact me as soon as possible, well before the trial date, to ask me to advise on what documents should be included. 

Apart from the logistics of Trial Bundle production a further reason to contact me well before the trial date - in fact as early as possible after the legal dispute arises -  is that when I study the documents, with a view to eventually advising which should be included in the Trial Bundle, it may become apparent that your chances of success at the trial would be increased if some action were to be taken - for example seeing if further evidence on a particular point can be obtained (e.g. by, depending what the case is about, obtaining documents from the Land Registry or Companies House) and/or amending your pleadings to argue a new legal point. Generally you will need the court's/tribunal's permission to rely on something new if the relevant deadline for it to be notified has already passed and, all other things being equal, the earlier such an application for permission is made, the more likely it is that permission will be given.

I have made an application to the Land Registry and the Land Registry is now about to refer my application to the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber). I haven't asked you for advice before but can I engage you now?

Yes. It is always best to engage a lawyer (barrister or solicitor) from the start but, that said, many people do, in order to save fees, draft the Land Registry documents themselves and, although the Land Registry cannot give legal advice, if a document is substantially correct and complete but is just in the wrong form the Land Registry will often explain what you need to do to put it in the correct form. However when it gets to the point where the Land Registry is asking you to comment on a Case Summary just before the case is referred to the tribunal you can and should seek advice at that point if you have not done so before.

What fees do you charge

Fixed Fees

The work which barristers do falls into four broad categories

1. Conference – meeting with you to discuss a matter face-to-face. If the matter concerns land this may include visiting the land with you.

2. Written Opinion – a barrister’s assessment of how the law applies to a given situation and the likelihood of winning litigation.

3. Drafting legal documents such as Claim Forms, pleadings, and Applications. A barrister may also draft crucial letters – such as a letter before action - but barristers do not handle routine correspondence (you need to engage a solicitor if you require assistance with routine correspondence).

4. Representing you in a court or tribunal hearing.

The fee for each piece of work which you ask a barrister to carry out is negotiable and, where possible – and it normally is possible for most pieces of work - a fixed fee for a piece of work is agreed. A fixed fee is based on how much time I think the piece of work will take me but remains fixed even if it turns out to take me longer than expected. (Equally, taking the rough with the smooth, the fee remains fixed even if, for that particular piece of work, it actually takes me less time than estimated.)

In the case of written Opinions and drafting other documents (2 and 3 above), you identify what you would like me to read – e.g. your written account of what you remember and documents from the past – letters, emails, agreements etc. – which are relevant. I then look very briefly at what you have provided in order to estimate how many hours the work is likely to take me and a fixed fee is agreed on that basis. Most clients store documents on Google Drive and provide me with access. The advantage of this is that when they ask me to do the next piece of work they can just provide me with access again – highlighting any new documents to be considered - and do not need to actually email all the documents again. (If litigation is underway then normally Caselines DCS is used – DCS is similar to Google Drive but also allows paginated and indexed “bundles” to be produced which are required for future hearings.)

In some cases there are not many documents (letters, emails etc.) so you could ask me to read them all when providing a written Opinion, but in most cases there are quite a number of documents and in order to keep fees to a reasonable level you need to decide which documents are relevant for me to consider. This can be a bit of catch 22 situation – you need some legal context in order to decide even what documents might be relevant, but I need to see some documents and have some information in order to provide that legal context. This is where a Conference (1 above) is helpful. At the conference I will be asking you questions and, depending on your answers, looking at various documents. Because you are likely to be familiar with them you are likely to be able to quickly turn to documents (either documents you have loaded up to Google Drive in advance, or perhaps some paper documents you have or documents on your laptop computer, which you have not yet loaded to Google Drive but can load to Google Drive immediately after the conference if they are identified as relevant) if I ask you questions like “when was such and such first mentioned?”. It is an iterative process with me forming a provisional view on the legal context, asking you for further information – or to point to further documents – and then revising the provisional view as more information is considered. The purpose is not to give a definitive legal opinion there and then but rather to identify a set of documents – typically no more than 250 pages - which I would need to study when drafting a written Opinion after the conference. The fee for the conference is a fixed fee based on the pre-agreed maximum duration of the conference (typically 2 hours with an hour allowed for some pre-reading).

In fact it is usual for a combined fixed fee to be agreed for a Conference immediately followed by a written Opinion (1 and 2 above). This would be based on a maximum duration for the conference (typically 2 hours) and a maximum number of pages of documents to be identified at the conference (typically 250) for study later when writing the Opinion, and on a maximum size for any chronological account, typed by you, of the facts of the case as you know them (typically four A4 sides at 12pt).

In the case of representation at a hearing (4 above) the documents I will need to read to prepare are identified and from that I estimate how much preparation time I am likely to need. A fixed Brief Fee is then agreed which covers both preparation and representation on the first day of the hearing. If the hearing is expected to last more than a day then an additional Refresher Fee will be agreed which will apply to each extra day after the first day.

The fixed-fee system is liked by clients and generally works well providing each side acts reasonably. For example if when I come to study the documents identified at the conference (when writing an Opinion) I find that some documents refer to additional documents I don't mind looking in the Goodle Drive folder provided by the client for those further documents even if that means that the total number of pages I am considering exceeds the agreed maximum of 250 by a modest margin - say up to 25% - but if it turns out to be a complex paperchase with each document found referring to multiple other documents then I would need either to charge a further fee - if I am to follow the trail to its logical conclusion and study all documents found in detail - or else stick to the original fee and caveat  my Opinion. Also, when agreeing a fixed fee for a piece of work I am obviously not studying the documents you have provided in detail and I am, to a certain extent, relying on the general description of the legal issue as set out by you when you first made your enquiry (or as identified at the time of the last Opinion which I drafted if I have already provided a written Opinion) and if it turns out, when I come to study the documents, that there is some "googly" buried in some document which opens up a whole new vista of enquiry (such as the mention of a second contract when you have asked me to advise about a single contract) then again I may have to give you the choice of either paying an extra fee and having me look at that additional issue in depth or else of my not dealing with that issue and keeping to the original fee, and this is so even if somewhere in the explanation, chronological account, detailed questions, or any documents which you may have provided me with, before the Client Care Letter was sent, there is mention somewhere of this additional issue. Clearly one legal issue may impact upon another and I will not be unduly restrictive in the scope of the work but a line may have to be drawn if the task, for which a fixed fee has been agreed, is not to become unfairly open-ended bearing in mind that when a fee is agreed I will not have read the detail of the material provided.

Most clients prefer the certainty of fixed fees and this is normally how most pieces of work are charged for. However there are a few circumstances where a fixed fee for a piece of work is not possible. For example if there is litigation (court or tribunal proceedings) then, at some stage before the trial, it will be necessary for a witness statement to be drafted dealing with all the live issues in the case (shorter witness statements may have been made earlier on dealing with some specific matter such as the need for an interim injunction, but before trial a comprehensive witness statement will be needed). Your witness statement, when signed, will be a document which you will be confirming to the court or tribunal, on oath, at the trial, to be true. You would need to be satisfied that it is true to the best of your knowledge and belief; my role, if you asked me to do the work of settling the witness statement, would be to ensure that it is clearly expressed, gives all relevant detail that you can remember, and complies with the rules for witness statements (e.g. clearly distinguishing between matters of knowledge and matters of belief). This means that if you ask me to do the work of settling a witness statement, you would write the first draft, and then drafts would pass between us as many times as is necessary. If your first draft is very clear and detailed, and you are able to clearly answer any queries I have, my contribution to the drafting process may not take me very long. On the other hand it can happen that many drafts are necessary because the answer to each query raises further queries, so, in factually complex cases, it may not be feasible to predict, at the outset, how many drafts there will be and how much time will be spent on each draft. Such iterative work, therefore, may not suitable for a fixed fee and may need to be charged on a time basis.

So each fee will be one of the following:-

1. A fixed fee, agreed in advance, for a conference or site visit of a stated duration followed by a written Opinion. 

2. A fixed fee, agreed in advance, for a fixed deliverable (e.g. Particulars of Claim or Defence, or representation on a particular day in court/tribunal) – this is the usual method of charging where the likely amount of work can be judged when agreeing a fixed fee.

3. A variable fee based on time actually taken to do the work in those few instances where a fixed fee is not feasible.

If you want to get some idea of what the total fees for a case, from start to finish, might be, please read this

Can I have a free initial chat with you?

No. I am afraid not. I, like most barristers, operate on a low-overhead business model. Barristers typically spend from nothing to very little on advertising, usually relying on a website and their reputation. Barristers are self-employed and share office costs with other self-employed barristers in chambers. And because barristers spend a lot of time either in court/tribunal or working from home, a barrister's chambers will typically have less floor space, person for person, than offices do in general. Also chambers will not be on the high street - because it does not need to use a high street presence for marketing purposes - where property costs are higher. Consistent with this low overhead business model I charge for everything I do: I do not provide any advice free.

Solicitors have a different business model which is why the fee charged for a solicitor is higher than a barrister of equivalent seniority would charge. Solicitors' firms consist of partners or directors who are the senior solicitors who own the firm and receive the profits, and a larger number of employed solicitors and other staff, and their business model typically uses the "one third rule" - i.e. out of the fee charged for a solicitor's work, one third goes on the salary of the solicitor, one third is spent on overheads, and one third is profit for the owners of the firm. The one third spent on overheads includes office costs but a large proportion is taken up with advertising and marketing in one form or another. This will typically include free  30 minute initial consultations for new clients. If we assume that for each 30 minute consultation a further 30 minutes is needed to write a file note of what is said, and write a short follow-up letter or email, and if we assume that, say, one out of five people who have a free 30 minute consultation go on to engage the solicitors to do further (chargeable) work, that means that the firm's overheads include, on average, for each client, the costs of providing 5 hours of free advice.

If I provided free initial chats, I also would have to charge my clients higher fees to cover the cost of the four out of five initial chats which do not result in chargeable work. I would rather not do that. I prefer to charge at a lower rate by minimising overheads and not providing free initial chats.  

That is the main reason why I do not provide free initial chats but there is an additional reason. Bar Council rules mean that I am not allowed to provide any advice unless a client care letter has been sent and terms agreed. Although in theory this does not prevent an initial chat of a fact-finding nature, as long as no actual advice is provided, a conversation in which I cannot answer any legal question, no matter how simple, can be frustrating (for both parties). 

Do you provide services on a 'no win no fee' basis?

I do not do "no win no fee" arrangementsI do not enter into agreements with insurance companies or other third party funders. If you ask me to carry out legal work you are liable to pay my agreed fees. If you have insurance, or are a member of an organisation, such as a trade union or professional body which might pay for legal expenses, they might reimburse you for some or all of my fees but that is a matter between you and them. 

No advice before Client Care Letter

Once a fee is agreed, and before I do any piece of work (“work” includes giving any advice) I will send you (by email) a Client Care Letter setting out my terms of business and stating the work which I will do and the fee for that piece of work. There is no obligation (on either side) unless and until you confirm your agreement to the terms in the Client Care Letter. Nothing I say before the terms in the first Client Care Letter have been agreed should be taken as legal advice – we may discuss what work you would like me to do/what work your case appears to require, and when you might get back to me, but such discussions are not legal advice and should not be taken to mean that, for example, I am advising about time limits – which I cannot do unless and until the terms in a Client Care Letter are agreed and fee paid.

Why do Barristers charge less than Solicitors

The work that barristers and solicitors do is not always directly comparable - barristers do not collect evidence and most solicitors do not represent clients in court (except for the shorter more administrative hearings in the lower courts) though both provide legal advice - but it is true that barristers generally charge less than solicitors of equivalent seniority. Part of the reason for this is that barristers have lower overheads but a further reason may be that barristers have traditionally done most pieces of work on the basis of a fee fixed in advance, rather than simply at an hourly rate. Whilst a fixed fee is not intrinsically cheaper - a fixed fee is, after all, based on an estimate of how much time the piece of work is likely to take - it is probably true that doing work mainly on a fixed fee basis tends to make you more aware of ways of saving time so that it does in fact not take you as long as someone who normally charges at an hourly rate who may not be so concerned at working in an efficient way. 

For example, a solicitor will be quite happy for you to deliver to them your paper documents which they should, at the conclusion of the matter, store in an offsite facility for a number of years. Handling paper documents in this way increases costs - which is reflected in the fees charged - because documents have to be scanned/photocopied, which takes time, and the costs of long term offsite storage of paper are not insubstantial. By contrast a barrister will usually ask you to provide all documents as PDFs. The barrister may print these out for convenience when doing work but because all documents have been provided as PDFs  - not in paper form - and because all documents the barrister has drafted will have been emailed to the client (rather than sent in paper form) the barrister will know that, at the conclusion of the case, everything they have on paper must be a copy of a document on computer so that only the computer files need to be archived, at minimal cost, and all paper can be confidentially shredded.

Although the use of computers became widespread only towards the end of the 20th Century, barristers have, in fact, always worked in a way which avoids the need for physical copying and archiving of documents. They were able to do this because throughout the 20th Century barristers only carried out work when engaged via solicitors, and the solicitors carried out - and still carry out when solicitors are involved - the necessary scanning/copying of documents to be sent to the barrister and subsequent archiving. So the way most barristers now work when engaged directly without a solicitor - asking for documents in PDF form only - is fully in line with their traditional role concentrating on the specifically legal work and choosing a way of working which avoids unnecessary overheads. Barristers have always charged less than solicitors but before the advent of computers (and changes to the Code of Conduct for barristers to allow direct access without a solicitor) you always had to engage a solicitor as well. But since 2004, as long as you are able to use a tablet or computer and provide documents in PDF form, you can engage a barrister direct.

You can get documents scanned as PDFs at any high street print shop so you do not even need your own scanner. As long as you have a tablet or computer and can carry out basic functions such as loading files to Google Drive, sending emails and printing, you can engage a barrister direct.  

If you are not able to use a computer/tablet at all - and not everyone is - then you can still engage a barrister by first going to a solicitor, although you then have to pay two sets of fees.     

Do I need Solicitors as well as a Barrister?

Traditionally a client always had to engage solicitors as well as a barrister even if much of the work done by the solicitors was work which the client could have done himself - scanning in and organising documents, for example. Appointing a solicitor is no longer compulsory and a solicitor is not needed in every case though in some particular kinds of case it is preferable that a solicitor is appointed

This page was lasted updated in August 2018          Disclaimer