On 26th October 2016, Alex Brooke Smith, Head of Litigation at Stokes Solicitors, came to talk to legal advice clinic advisers and final year law students about life as a Civil Litigator.
Alex outlined that, in general, most solicitors will specialise in one area of litigation, but that litigation is a very broad area and can include any kind of dispute including commercial issues, housing, neighbour disputes, recovery of debt and many more.
Talking about seeing a new client, Alex pointed out that one of the most important issues from the perspective of both the client and solicitor is costs. A sensitive subject, but very important for both parties. As students working in the legal advice clinic we have not encountered the issue of costs, and so gaining an insight in to this aspect of legal work was very interesting. Alex outlined that costs can increase very quickly, especially where there is a lot of evidence to read through, often to thousands of pounds.
Another aspect of seeing a new client, Alex outlined, is taking a full account of the client’s issue at the outset. Alex told us how clients will often give a lot of information about their issue, a lot of which may not be of relevance. He underlined the importance of questioning the client in such a way that you find out all the vital details, including what they need you to do for them. This is an aspect of advising that in our short time as student advisers we have discovered. It is often difficult to keep a client on track with their issue, and is a skill we will certainly be developing over the year.
Alex outlined that, contrary to popular opinion about litigation, court action should be used as a last resort, due to the expense and uncertainty that it can entail. There are several ways a solicitor such as Alex can help settle a dispute for a client outside of Court, for example with negotiation and mediation. This could be by letter, telephone discussion, or perhaps a formal mediation, with a third party mediator. Alex highlighted that these methods of dispute resolution are much more likely to offer a positive outcome for the client.
Alex’s talk was informative and insightful. It was interesting to hear that the way in which Alex advises, and the challenges that he encounters are very similar to ours at the legal advice clinic, albeit on a larger scale. The talk has certainly inspired more than one of the advisers to consider civil litigation as a potential career path in the future!
If you have a dispute that needs resolving we may be able to offer some general legal advice. Please do not hesitate to drop by our Legal Advice Clinic at the Somerstown Community Centre every Monday (10am – 1pm), or The John Pounds Centre every Wednesday (1pm – 4pm). Our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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