Are you legally streetwise? – things they don’t and can’t teach you at Law School

Most trainee solicitors in commercial law firms are likely to spend part of their training contract time working in a litigation department or handling some dispute related work. Many trainees will also undertake their training contracts at small firms, perhaps where there are only a small number of lawyers at the firm. This post is

Home » Uncategorized » Are you legally streetwise? – things they don’t and can’t teach you at Law School

Most trainee solicitors in commercial law firms are likely to spend part of their training contract time working in a litigation department or handling some dispute related work.

Many trainees will also undertake their training contracts at small firms, perhaps where there are only a small number of lawyers at the firm.

This post is aimed at law students who may be in the above situation but it also has general applicability.

Disputes and litigation often bring out the worst in people

The above is a very obvious statement and largely true, sadly, but worth remembering.

Junior lawyers, fresh out of law school and with a head full not only of law but of the do’s and don’ts of professional conduct and ethics may be shocked by what follows …

Here are some things that can happen to you as a trainee or junior litigation lawyer ….

  •  You will almost certainly come across clients who are very streetwise and know their way around litigation situations and life better than you
  • A litigation client may, as part of his or her strategy, have the intention, from the outset, to possibly blame you for not getting the result they want
  •  Your inexperience and/or naivety may be taken advantage of further by the client seeking credit and/or not paying bills on time. With litigation matters it is imperative to have sufficient money on account, replenished as necessary.
  • Clients may seek to take advantage of you by trying to get you to be overly aggressive with the opponent’s lawyers and/or compromising your professional position. As a solicitor you have a duty to protect and promote your clients interests but you must also be careful about your ethical duties to other lawyers and the court. Be particularly wary of making any threats at a clients behest to the other party that could be construed as blackmail.
  • Your client may well not tell you the truth or provide you with full information or documents.
    In short, as a junior lawyer you may find that streetwise and savvy clients may deliberately select you as their lawyer for some of the above reasons.

Forewarned is forearmed

If you happen to be a trainee or a junior lawyer in a very small firm and a new client comes to your firm with what looks like a juicy case in terms of fees and/or complexity, ask yourself why that client has chosen you and your firm. It could be for some of the reasons described above. The client may also assume that in a very small firm, in a very competitive legal marketplace, you might be under pressure to go out of your way to keep him or her happy.

Never underestimate the sophistication of a client or the importance of non-legal aspects to a legal case. This is especially the case with litigation. When someone’s back is up against the wall, where there is a lot at stake, people rarely play nice.

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