Clients and Lawyers – a Team
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Clients and Lawyers – a Team
The whole point and purpose of lawyers is that, on behalf of their clients, they engage with complex and densely-technical legal schemes and achieve the client’s required outcome. It is sometimes said that a client and their lawyer constitute a “team”. This is true in a way, but in such a team the client is the “boss”, and the client’s task is a relatively easy one: to explain to their lawyer their situation and to explain what outcome they want. The lawyer does the rest of the work, hopefully to the point of a successful conclusion.
It is a truism that modern law is, in many fields, very complex. Modern parliaments pass hundreds of new laws every year and the courts produce thousands of new case decisions every year. And thus it is not only the complexity of the law: it is also the frequency of change in the law that lawyers have to cope with.
This is perhaps most particularly true in the field of immigration law. Immigration is, it hardly needs to be said, a highly politically-driven subject. Every few years a new, compendious, immigration act is passed by Parliament. But this is just the thin end of the wedge: every few months the Home Office also amends the Immigration Rules, which is a huge, masterful, and at times quite incomprehensible document running to many hundreds of pages (we have lost count) and which one senior judge once cleverly described as “Byzantine”. And, of course, every time they are amended they become larger.
Other fields of law, such as property law, are similarly complex, and they sometimes tax the brains of the lawyers who have to grapple with them.
But that’s what lawyers are there for and there is really no point in their complaining too much about it. We have to decide whether to be prepared to stand the heat and stay in the kitchen, as the colloquialists put it.
But one thing that sometimes does go wrong, quite apart from the complexity of the legal landscape, is that the client’s instructions sometimes do not fully inform the lawyer about their situation. This could potentially occur in most areas of law, but it is perhaps most particularly likely to happen in a complex property transaction, such as one where a client wishes to buy or sell part of a building, but not the whole of the building.
There are real issues of difficulty that can arise in such a situation. In most cases there will be associated rights (eg rights of way, right to light, drainage and sewerage issues) which need to be thoroughly dealt with as part of the transaction. If they are not thoroughly dealt with then the client will be left with a completed transaction that is deficient, and this – for obvious reasons – is likely to cause problems. Say, for example, a client buys part of a building which they can only access via a certain route. But if the client has no right of way along this particular route, then every time they enter or leave their part of the property they will be trespassing.
But of course the lawyer cannot fully address all these kind of issues unless they are given adequate instructions in the first place. A lawyer always needs to start somewhere.
So the moral of this peroration is that clients are well advised to give their lawyers the fullest necessary instructions so that their lawyer can use their skills to the fullest effect. In this way clients will give themselves the best possible chance of a successful outcome.