When you ask me to give you legal advice, or to draft a Letter of Claim or pleadings in a court or tribunal case, you will need to provide me with PDF copies of relevant documents which you have (or can obtain). The documents you have may be on paper, or they may be on your computer, tablet or mobile phone. Whatever the form of the documents, and wherever they are located, you need to preserve the originals, make PDF copies and load the PDF copies, giving me access.
Depending what your case is about and on whether there is still relevant evidence available to be photographed, you may need to take photographs/videos of land, of buildings or of objects, obtain historical aerial or ground-level photographs or take copies of webpages.
There may be relevant documents which you do not currently have but which you might be able to obtain by asking other people or organisations if they can provide copies of relevant documents they may have. If your case concerns ownership and rights over land land, you may be able to obtain relevant documents from the Land Registry or other public sources. If relevant you can obtain Wills from the Probate Registry. Some documents relevant to companies registered under the Companies Acts and limited liability partnerships can be obtained from Companies House. Documents for mutuals can be obtained from the FCA.
Barristers do not investigate or collect evidence. The reason for this is that if matters get to the stage of litigation, the way in which evidence was collected might need to be proved and a barrister cannot act as a witness in the same case as they act as advocate. For example in case the date that a photograph was taken should be disputed it is usual for the person who took a photograph to say, in their witness statement, when they took it. What a website contained on a particular day might be disputed so if a PDF copy of a webpage needs to be taken, you need to take the copy so that you can, if necessary at trial, formally "produce" the copy and give evidence of what it is and that the date which appears on the bottom of every page with the URL is indeed the date on which you made the copy. Therefore you yourself will need to carry out any investigations, searches, photography etc. which may be needed, and provide me with the copies of the photographs taken or documents found. If, when I am drafting an Opinion or carrying out other drafting work, it becomes apparent that you have not provided me with a key document but it is a document I can easily obtain online from a statutory public register (such as H M Land Registry or Companies House) I may, to save time, obtain a copy myself direct. In this case there is little risk that the way the document was obtained might become the subject of a dispute, because anyone can obtain a copy from the same statutory register. However you should not rely on me obtaining anything direct and you should carry out as much investigation/searching as you think appropriate given the amount of time you have and the importance of the mater to you. This includes searching the Land Registry or Companies House if relevant, as thoroughly as you consider the case warrants, even if I have obtained some documents direct from them.
You should load the documents to "cloud" storage so that we both have access. You can use Caselines or Google Drive. Caselines is required if there is litigation but if you are not yet at the litigation stage you can use Google Drive initially, which is free.
Apart from emails I have a huge number of other potentially relevant documents. Do I need to provide you with all of them?
In some cases there are not many documents so that I can read them all before e.g. writing an Opinion. At the other end of the scale, for some cases there are a vast number of documents, typically emails going back years. If there is a large amount of documentation, one option is for me to simply read it all but that would be costly and often a better way is to make the documents available in a manageable form - e.g. as PDFs in a Google Drive folder with each PDF name commencing with the document date in yyyy-mm-dd format so that the documents appear in chronological order - and for us to have a conference and go through the documents. Because you are likely to be very familiar with most of the documents (particularly if they are emails you have sent and received) you are likely to be able to quickly identify documents in response to questions from me such as "when was such and such first mentioned?”, or "did you complain about this in an email?" etc. thus saving time (and, ultimately, money because a fixed fee can be agreed for conference and subsequent written Opinion on the assumption that because you can guide me through the documents, that will reduce the amount of reading I need to do).
Doing it this way is particularly useful if you have a large number of paper documents and you are not sure whether they are relevant or not. You can scan in and load to Google Drive key documents which are clearly relevant and then, at the conference, a by-product of going through documents and answering my questions will be a better understanding of what types of documents are likely to be relevant or not relevant, which will help you decide which paper documents not already scanned in and loaded to Google Drive should be.
If you are in the situation where you have an off-site paper archive of documents which cannot easily be brought to the conference you can provide a table giving brief descriptions of what categories of documents exist (or may exist) that are (or may be) relevant, together with some indication of the numbers in each category, as shown in this example so that I can then provide a preliminary Advice based on the documents identified at the conference and also include in my preliminary Advice some practical advice about which locations and categories of document not available at the conference might be particularly worth searching through, at this stage.
If I provide you with accounts, do I also need to provide copies of the individual transaction documents the accounts were compiled from?
In business, and in other fields of activity, there may be documents which provide a high level financial or statistical summary (perhaps yearly or quarterly) based on a large number of individual transactions or other events or items. Examples include annual accounts which may be produced each year and provide a summary of the individual financial transactions such as purchase orders, payments, invoices and receipts. Other examples might include a summary of the number of days particular rooms or suites in a hotel are booked (in a case involving a claim for loss of business due to poor workmanship in fitting out rooms), or a summary of the number of days production lost due to failures in manufacturing plant. Whether, when seeking legal advice, you need to provide copies of individual transactions as well as the high level summary documents, depends on whether particular transactions or groups of transactions are relevant or whether it is just the overall position which is relevant. See how to handle transaction and summary documents
If you are aware of documents which you have had in the past but don't have copies of now - for example if you have a letter addressed to you which commences "thank you for your letter of 5th May" but you don't have a copy of your letter dated 5th May which it is replying to because you did not keep a copy when you sent out your letter - create a PDF containing the text "A copy of this document is not available" and give the PDF a name which includes, in brackets at the end, the letters NA (which stand for "not available") and brief one or two word explanation of why a copy of the document is not available such as (NA - did not keep copy) or (NA - lost) or (NA - changed phone). In due course it may be possible to obtain copies from e.g. the person to whom the letter was sent but it is useful to identify, at the outset, missing documents.
Yes: you should load relevant video (e.g. mp4) and audio (e.g. mp3) files.
If using Google Drive, audio/video files should be loaded into a separate folder named e.g. Smith v Jones - av files.
If you are using Caselines then you can load audio/video files into Caselines itself but this can be quite expensive - as there is a per MB charge - so generally it is better to create a Google Drive folder just for av files even if you use Caselines for all other documents. If you do this you should load a placeholder text file, with appropriate name (e.g. Video Brookwood garden) and date, into Caselines, containing the text “Placeholder for video dated 22/5/2016" to ensure that it is not overlooked .
Whenever you load an audio recording, you should consider making a transcript which should be emailed to me. For information on making transcripts of audio files see here. Transcripts may also be appropriate for some video files see here
If your dispute is with a business or other organisation, and you suspect that the organisation has had similar disputes with other people in the past which have resulted in court or tribunal cases, you could look at records for previous court/tribunal cases. In fact it is relatively rare for past court cases to be relevant as no two cases are exactly alike, but if you have the time and wish to do so, you could make enquiries Barristers look at court and tribunal cases which set legal precedents – generally decisions of the higher courts and tribunals - but they do not search for past cases involving the other party so, if this is to be done, you would need to do this.
If you are involved in litigation (court or tribunal proceedings) I recommend that you use Caselines because it is the only service that I am aware of which (a) can automatically produce numbered lists of documents and indexed and paginated bundles of documents, (b) allows sub-numbering of pages for page inserts, and (c) allows multiple users - so that, for example you can give me access to your case so that I can see the documents in it (and even, exceptionally, add documents to it). (If anyone reading this is aware of any other service, besides Caselines, which can do these three things, please let me know.)
If you use Caselines I can provide you with instructions about how to carry out the various functions you need to perform (such as producing hearing bundles). If, however, you use a system other than Caselines - such as generating bundles manually using standard PDF software - you may well encounter queries and difficulties, and if you then need to seek advice from me, the cost of that advice, over the course of the case, is likely to exceed the (relatively) modest fees which Caselines charge to use their system. So using an alternative method which is apparently less expensive than Caselines is likely to be a false economy.
So I would recommend that you use Caselines if you are at the stage of litigation. If you are not yet involved in litigation - e.g. you are seeking initial advice which may or may not mean that litigation ensues, you can choose whether to use Caselines from the start or whether to use a free system such as Googe Drive initially and only use Caselines later if there is litigation. Free systems such as Google Drive do not have the ability to produce paginated and indexed bundles, and lists, but these facilities are not essential at the initial advice stage before litigation. If you decide to use a free system I recommend Google Drive rather than Microsoft OneDrive or Apple iCloud because Google Drive allows you to rename documents whilst displaying the document text thus saving a lot of time when initially naming the files.
The litigation process itself produces many formal documents such as pleadings, orders made by the court or tribunal, witness statements and exhibits. If litigation has already started you will need to load up litigation documents. See here for how to obtain and/or recognise formal litigation documents.
As well as the formal litigation documents, usually there is at least some correspondence between the parties during the a lot of course of the litigation. If there has not been very much litigation correspondence it is best to load it all up - most of it will probably not be relevant but some of it might be. The following correspondence in particular is likely to be important:
It is, of course, possible that a party may say something in the future, in its witness statement exchanged just before trial, which is different from what it has already said in a letter or email, so litigation correspondence which does not currently seem important might retrospectively become important. For these and other reasons the only completely safe policy is if in doubt load it up.
You and/or people you have contacted who are also witnesses to relevant events may have recently written down what they remember at your request either in a Proof of Evidence or perhaps, initially, just in a letter or email. These should be loaded up but it is very important that the date you give for these is accurate because there is a difference between what people wrote at the time of the events giving rise to the current dispute, and what witnesses have written more recently in response to requests by you for their recollections. Put simply the latter is privileged against disclosure whereas the former is not, but providing you make sure that in the filename you give each PDF the date is accurate it should be clear what is likely to be privileged and what is not.
Instructions is one of those English words which has subtly changed its emphasis over the centuries and, as is often the case, lawyers use it with a flavour of its older meaning. People used to talk about being instructed in history or French, for example, whereas we now tend to say educated. Instructions, to a barrister, really means (generally written) information. It is not mainly about telling the barrister what to do (though there might be an element of that - you might want to tell the barrister that you want to complain about one thing but not bother with another, for example) but about giving the barrister written information. In some cases there is a lot of email correspondence between the parties but, even then, there may be things which are not obvious from the emails (an email might refer to something mentioned in a telephone or face-to-face conversation, for example, so that you need to know about the oral conversation in order to fully understand the email), or there may be some event which is not described in contemporary emails or letters at all and you need to provide the barrister with a written chronological account of what has happened. The written chronological account - or instructions as lawyers call it - can mention letters/emails sent (with the date of the letter or, for emails, the date and time) and what the purpose of sending them was but, having referred to them, it does not need to quote extensively from them - its purpose is to provide an overview of what has happened and to fill in the detail where that is not contained in contemporary letters/emails referred to.
Depending what stage in the litigation process has been reached (whether you are just asking for legal advice about your rights without any dispute being in prospect, or whether there is some kind of dispute but nobody is yet thinking about litigation, or whether litigation is on the cards but hasn't yet commenced, or whether litigation is actually in progress) you may have written down what you remember in a Proof of Evidence (see previous question). If so, you do not need to provide written instructions which repeat what you have said in your Proof of Evidence but you may want to provide some useful summaries. For example you may also want to to provide me with a chronology (i.e. a brief table of key events with dates) and a Dramatis Personae (list of individuals who feature in events explaining who they work for/who they are - you will have given this information in your Proof of Evidence, of course, but a table summarising it for easy reference can be useful). You might provide a Scott Schedule. If there is already litigation you might want to type up comments, paragraph by paragraph, on what your opponent says in their pleadings or witness statements.
Written instructions like this should not be loaded up but rather should be emailed to me.
The information on this page about specific computer techniques is provided for information purposes only. Every reasonable effort has been made to ensure that the information is accurate and up to date at the time it was written but no responsibility for its accuracy, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed by me. You should satisfy yourself, before using any of the techniques, software or services described, that the techniques are appropriate for your purposes and that the software or service is reliable.
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