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Getting the most out of your adviser

Most of this blog (and the book it supports) is written for people who are either representing a client in the employment tribunal, or are representing themselves. The underlying assumption is that if you are a claimant in an employment tribunal case who has an adviser, you can leave running the case to them.

That assumption is not completely right of course. If you are getting free advice, the time your adviser can spend on your case will be limited by the other demands on her time – and demand for free legal advice vastly outstrips supply, so the chances are she’s rushed off her feet. If she’s representing you by way of Legal Help, she will be operating under grossly unrealistic time limits imposed by the Legal Services Commission. And if you’re paying for legal advice, the time your lawyer can spend on your case will be limited by your budget: lawyers charge by the hour.

Any which way, there will be a limit, and probably quite a tight one. Case preparation consumes time at a frightening rate, so if you do everything in your power to limit the time your adviser has to spend on non-essential tasks, or tasks that she is no better qualified than you to do, you will maximise the time she has available for the more difficult stuff.

Present the papers in the most helpful way you can

Read the advice on coping with a large pile of papers. Taking letters out of envelopes, removing staples and paperclips, sorting papers into chronological order, weeding out duplicates, photocopying and hole-punching are all easy tasks – but time-consuming. You’d think it mad to pay anyone £100 or more an hour to sort your laundry, but it is surprising how many people are prepared to pay their lawyers to put papers into chronological order.

Answer questions succinctly

Be as focused as possible in the information you give to your adviser, and the way you answer her questions. In ordinary conversation, a question is very often not so much a request for specific information as a polite cue whose purpose is to make space for you to talk for a bit. If it was your habit to behave in social situations like the ideal witness – just giving a succinct factual answer focused precisely on the question you were asked, and then stopping to wait for the next question – you’d soon stop getting invitations. But your lawyer’s questions are best treated in precisely that way.

Don’t ask your adviser for information you can easily find elsewhere

There are many sources of free information for people going through employment tribunal claims, so try to get the answers to your basic questions that way before paying your lawyer to tell you. A good start is to make full use of this blog – don’t just read the most recent posts: explore the index, have a look at the resources page and the glossary, visit the websites that we link to. You could also ask your local library to get a copy of the book (ask for Tamara Lewis’s Employment Law: an adviser’s handbook too, while you’re about it).

Do some of the work yourself

If you are trying to keep your legal costs down, don’t be shy to ask ‘Is that something I could do myself?’ or ‘Will it save time if I do a first draft?’ when your lawyer tells you that a particular piece of work needs doing. You will certainly save quite a lot of your adviser’s time if you write a good first draft of your witness statement.

One comment

  1. Camilla Palmer

    I agree about sorting out documents and chronological means the most recent document at the back of the bundle so the ‘story’ reads like a book – beginning to end. This does not always happen. Highlighting key documents is also helpful.

    What is also really useful is for you to prepare (at an early stage) a fairly detailed chronology of events as this could save the adviser an hour or two of going through what happened. It is also easier to do when you have time to prepare it and can check dates against documents.

    It saves hours if you can start to prepare your statement – it is meant to be the employee’s statement, not the adviser’s, and is always better in your words not your lawyer’s. Again, this should be done in chronological order. Ask the adviser for an outline of what should be included.

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