This page has been prepared primarily for lawyers. It will also assist others, such as accountants, who may be involved in briefing a barrister (either directly or in conjunction with a solicitor). Non-lawyers may find my new clients page useful.
Before you start preparing a brief please call me onto discuss the matter. The below are some general observations that apply to most matters. I’m of course happy to discuss brief structure by telephone.
Preparation of the Brief
The effort put into preparing a brief by an instructing solicitor has a direct impact on the quality and timeliness of the work I can perform. In the long term the time devoted to preparing a thought out brief will also save the client money. I will be able to consider a well prepared brief more quickly. There is less risk of extraneous issues becoming distractions and a greater prospect that all issues will be dealt with at once in any advice I give.
These observations apply equally to a hard copy or an electronic brief. In larger matters I would appreciate both a hard copy and an electronic brief.
When giving you an estimate of my fees (in advance of receiving a brief) I will assume that the brief will be prepared in accordance with the below. A well prepared brief will normally contain the following:
1. Cover letter
It should identify:
- The client;
- What work I am briefed to do;
- The other parties (so I can ensure I don’t have a conflict before getting deep into the brief); and
- Any urgency or time limits (so they are not missed).
It should also identify:
- The individual instructing solicitor/s name/s, email addresses, direct and mobile telephone numbers;
- The firm’s file reference number, and
- The date of delivery of the brief.
2. Contents / Index
It should describe all documents and attachments (under headings and with a reasonable degree of detail). The contents page should be arranged in the same order as the documents. The documents (or pages) should be numbered so that I can quickly find them. Generally it makes sense to organise documents in chronological order. However you should avoid including multiple copies of the same document.
3. A memo containing detailed observations
If you are seeking advice, please identify the question/s you are asking me to address.
The memorandum should be detailed, and be cross referenced to the materials in the brief (by reference to tab or page number).
If you have already undertaken any legal research, please refer to it. There is no sense in the client being charged for me to duplicate what you have already done.
In the context of disputes, please advise whether negotiations have occurred and if so their current status.
Relevant documents to be included in the brief may include:
- Copies (never originals or your only copy) of material documents;
- ALL Court documents, including but not limited to pleadings, affidavits and interlocutory orders of the court. In the case of affidavits please ensure you provide all affidavits – even those relating to interlocutory issues that have been resolved. These can be used in cross examination.
- Copies of relevant correspondence. There is no need to give me every piece of correspondence with the other side about interlocutory matters that have gone nowhere; and
- Proofs of evidence of witnesses.
Most briefs will be best presented in a lever arch file or files. Each document should be separated from each other document by a numbered divider tab. Please do not staple individual documents; I find it a lot easier to turn the pages of a multiple page document if the document is not stapled.
An electronic brief will not be any quicker for you to prepare. An electronic brief is not:
- A series of emails; nor
- A copy of your file directory for the matter copied to a USB key.
An electronic brief will require as much thought and preparation as to organisation as a hard copy brief.
Please do not deliver an electronic brief by email (unless it is very small and urgent). An electronic brief should be delivered on DVD, USB key or hard drive.
An electronic brief should still have a cover letter, index and memo. They should be hyper-linked to one another and to the source documents.