6.7 Format of the First Meeting
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There are six main issues to consider during the initial client meeting.
Identification of Client Needs
Solicitors need to ascertain what the client wishes to achieve. They should be advised about the likely risks and potential costs of the litigation process.
Full details need to be taken of the client’s version of events and this can later be used as the basis of their proof of evidence.
Explanation of legal principles
Clearly, a key part of the meeting will be to identify and explain the application of the relevant legal principles. A solicitor should always attempt to explain these matters to the client in simple terms, avoiding technical language that may be difficult to understand.
Discussion of dispute resolution
As discussed above, the emphasis under the Civil Procedure Rules is resolving disputes without recourse to the Courts, which should be used as a last resort. Thus, a solicitor will need to raise the issue of dispute resolution with a client at an early stage. Particular attention should be drawn to the possible costs implications of failing to consider the possibility of ADR.
Clients are likely to raise a number of questions during the initial meeting. If a solicitor does not know the answer to a client’s question, they should tell the client that they will research the answer. Some questions are likely to be more difficult than others, however, for example, questions over the chances of success, the overall cost and the time the case is likely to take. In the event that a client asks these kinds of questions, it should be explained that they are difficult to answer with any degree of accuracy, particularly during the initial stages of the case. A client should, however be kept updated as required.
At the end of the meeting, the solicitor should summarise the case so far and what they can do to assist the client to progress. They should then discuss with the client the next steps that need to be taken. This information should then be confirmed by letter.
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