A voyage of discovery
I’m sure that many people have a mistaken view of what legal work is like. Probably many of them watch TV programs and Hollywood films where the hero bursts in to the court at the last minute with that all important missing document or key witness and blows the case wide open and the heroine goes free and falls into his arms in gratitude.
Really law is not like that and Hollywood has a lot to answer for, because I spend a disproportionate amount of my time dispelling such myths and persuading my clients that not only is it highly unlikely that we’ll find that important missing document at the last minute, if we did, there is a risk that the Judge would say it’s inadmissible because disclosure (the exercise we conduct to show what documents we have that are relevant) is something that should be done fairly early on in the case. If you produce things late in the day, the court can refuse to allow them in, or it can adjourn the case (at your expense) to give the other side time to consider them.
The other difficulty I have with disclosure is persuading clients that they have to disclose EVERYTHING that is relevant, even if it is potentially to their disadvantage. You can’t hold things back, doctor them or edit out the bits you don’t like. What’s more, if you tell me that you’re minded to do it, I might have to refuse to act for you. I am an officer of the court (as all Solicitors are) and my duty to the Judge to ensure that everyone on my side is honest, overrides my duty of confidentiality to my client. If you don’t want the Judge to know, something, then don’t tell me!
So my advice is to do a thorough and detailed search of all relevant bits of information at the earliest opportunity, including things like WhatsApp and text messages (yes, they are ALL admissible), and anything else you may have. Give it ALL to your solicitor (complete and unedited) when requested, and leave them to sort it out.
It’s also worth remembering that anything you say to your solicitor is confidential, but anything you say to anyone else is probably not. That includes your colleagues. So if you’re going to decide to screw a client over, don’t put it in an email to your co director, because that email will almost certainly be disclosable and might end up in front of a court.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to give Steven Spielberg a piece of my mind!
Kleyman & Co Solicitors. The full service law firm. Lights, camera and plenty of action!