Working together

My clients come in all shapes and sizes, with different levels of sophistication, financial resources, legal or professional experience and most of all, varying time commitments.

But what they all have in common is that they are looking for cost effective ways of resolving their legal problems. Many have had bad and expensive experiences with previous lawyers and say that they find instructing a direct access barrister to be a breath of fresh air.

jigsaw puzzle pieces

I try my very best to find the most appropriate and cost effective approach for the client. Yes, on some occasions that means sending the client on to someone cheaper – a costs lawyer or a more junior barrister if I think that would be in the client’s interests.

The aim of this page is to try to give a flavour of how I work, and the case studies below give some anonymised examples of what other clients have found helpful.

“It has been a pleasure working with Stephen… Stephen clearly went beyond our contract to understand our … case to ensure the best outcome. He took time to understand all the angles and perspectives of our claim in formulating the most effective strategy.” (direct access client, contract dispute)

I have been accepting clients under the direct access scheme for a couple of years now. It entails a different way of working from when I am instructed by solicitors, not just because of the direct and more frequent contact with the client: the case has not been filtered by another lawyer first, so I have more of a problem solving role and have to focus on sorting through the material to work out what is really important; I have to be more flexible to accommodate different ways of working and different fee arrangements.

I like this way of working and I think that my personality is well suited to it. I am approachable and understand the need to explain legal concepts and procedures to non-lawyers. I am diligent and reliable, and a common theme of feedback from clients is that they appreciate my working really hard to go the extra mile for them.

Wow, you’re on it!…I have to say  you  really do give your clients a ‘Rolls Royce ‘ service. (direct access client, costs dispute)

These are some of my key insights based on my direct access experience:

  • the personal relationship between client and direct access barrister is very important; they need to trust and respect each other and to be able to discuss matters candidly; I do think that prospective clients should speak to the barrister first to try to get a sense of whether they will be able to get along and work together well;
  • however, clients need a professional barrister, not a friend; yes, the barrister should be supportive, but they should also be testing the client’s case and always giving candid, realistic advice, even if it is not what the client thinks they want to hear;
  • communication is key, so that expectations are aligned on when work will be carried out, when emails are likely to be responded to, how contact outside of working hours should be regulated and so on. I do not claim to be perfect at this: as a sole practitioner it can be difficult to manage workflows consistently, but clients can help enormously by checking on availability before passing on work, setting out deadlines clearly and explaining expectations;
  • it really is true here that a stitch in time saves nine; it is rarely the case that it is too late to ask for help, it is almost always possible for a barrister to add some value; however, it is particularly true in litigation that if you get things right at the outset everything which follows will be much easier, and as time goes by it becomes more difficult (perhaps impossible) and expensive to correct earlier mistakes;
  • understandably, clients often wish to do as much of the work themselves as possible, to keep costs down; however, if you have a limited budget for legal help, there are ways of making it go much further by spending it at the right times, on the key points in litigation which really make a difference; experienced litigation lawyers are much better placed to assess what those points are; getting advice at the outset and making a plan together on how you are going to manage the case through to the end could be absolutely priceless.

Case study 1 – cost effective detailed assessment

My clients represented themselves in proceedings and were ordered to pay the other side’s costs. They were served with a very large Bill of Costs for the other side’s solicitors, which were to be assessed…

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Case study 3 – getting a contract claim back on track

In this case the client had already commenced proceedings claiming breach of contract. They had drafted the Particulars of Claim themselves but these had been struck out by the court. Things were looking bleak…

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Case study 2 – investigating professional negligence

A client approached me with a high value professional negligence claim. I gave them some positive advice on the merits of their claim. They had a limited budget but expert evidence would be needed…

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Case study 4 – challenging former solicitors’ costs

This client had previously conducted some litigation involving a construction dispute. They won the case but then received an unexpectedly large costs bill (several times what they had been quoted) from their own solicitors…

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Legal Notice

The material on this site is for general information only and is not legal advice. No liability is accepted for any loss or damage which may result from reliance on it. Always consult a qualified lawyer about a specific legal problem. 

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