In the same way that first impressions last, the opening line of a letter can have a lasting impression on the reader, and not always for the right reason. For example, if you receive an e mail from someone you don’t know and it starts with “My dearest Stephanie” you’d probably assume they want something. Someone who enquirers after your health is probably trying to sell you something. Anyone who e mails you on a Friday afternoon and starts by asking if you are looking forward to the weekend probably doesn’t know you well enough to know that you clocked off and were down the pub by lunchtime!
Drafting is one of the key skills of any good solicitor such as having the ability to write a firm letter without being unnecessarily aggressive. Or the ability to summarise a three hour meeting in a brief document so that everyone knows what we’ve agreed.
The ability to prepare a witness statement that gets your point across without going in to so much detail that an adjournment is necessary is also important, so it might then surprise you if your solicitor asks you to draft your own witness statement. Actually, this isn’t as unusual as it sounds. It’s important that any witness statement is in your own words, as it’s your evidence, and whilst this has always been the case, it has become more and more important recently, with several cases going against parties whose solicitors were clearly too involved in the drafting of evidence. That doesn’t mean we don’t help and support clients in finalising their statement, but the starting point should always be their words rather than ours.
For this reason, one of the first things I tell a client when they approach me about a possible dispute is to start making notes immediately about what has happened historically and what is going on now. Keeping a diary can also be useful. Not only can it be quite a cathartic process, but it can save a huge amount of time and money in the long run. You’d be amazed at how quickly details can fade from your memory, especially as it can take some years for a case to come to trial, so the more you can get down on paper now, the better off you may be when your solicitor asks you to start drafting your statement.
Kleyman & Co Solicitors. Top tips on bottoming out all manor of legal issues.