Working with counsel
Produced in partnership with Ursula Rice of Family First Solicitors Ltd

The following Family practice note produced in partnership with Ursula Rice of Family First Solicitors Ltd provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Working with counsel
  • Choosing counsel and reasons to instruct
  • Conferences
  • Hearings
  • Preparing the instructions or brief
  • Fees
  • Standard contractual terms
  • Direct access assistance with PAYG
  • When things go wrong
  • Relationship

Working with counsel

Instructing counsel to advocate on a client’s behalf should be a matter of careful thought and preparation. The role of counsel is to provide independent objective advice and to deploy the skill of advocacy on behalf of the client. Although they are part of a team, they also serve as a boost to the initially instructed solicitor’s advice. This Practice Note sets out how counsel can be instructed so that the client receives the maximum benefit.

Choosing counsel and reasons to instruct

A list of approved counsel should be maintained and regularly updated. In family matters, what might be termed a good 'bedside manner' is important. Clients often feel immensely vulnerable and the involvement of a brilliant but brusque professional may not suit the client at all.

Consideration may need to be given to instructing leading counsel and in some cases leading counsel will happily take a case without the expense of junior counsel assisting them.

The earlier in a case counsel is instructed, the more benefit will be obtained from their advice. There are different reasons for instructing counsel, ie:

  1. it is clear from the outset that the advocacy cannot be conducted by the instructing solicitor due to current or anticipated commitments—the early instruction of counsel will ensure that the advocacy is covered without any last minute drama and early re-booking for the next hearing

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