How to Keep your File
Firstly, separate core documents from correspondence. Your initial attendance should be pinned on the right and your section 68 letter pinned on the left along with a copy of the photo ID and bill in your client’s name. On the front of the file, where it cannot be missed, note the applicable date of the statute of limitations. Be sure to take the client’s full address and at least two phone numbers and an e-mail address where the client can be contacted at.

Your initial attendance should note the PPS and occupation of the client as you will need this information for proceedings. Find out where your client works and take the details of same as there may be a loss of earnings claim. Note the time when you started the attendance and do not conclude the time until you have actually closed the file. I recommend maintaining time records in six minute intervals. I would generally round down so that there can be no issue with any exaggeration of time.

If you have not already, furnish your client with a section 68 letter. If you are going to charge on a time basis, you should take into account the likely quantum of the case and your level of experience when establishing the hourly rate. If you are going to charge on a time basis, you must keep accurate time sheets! That means noting who did the work, what work was done and how long it took for every single item of work done.

If you are going to charge by the nature and extent of work done, you should maintain time records for all attendances to include court attendances.

Any company office searches should be kept on the right side along with any O’Byrne letter or letter of claim.

Letters commissioning medico-legal reports should be kept on the right side; however, any invoices for said report should be kept on the left. This should be the practice for all outlay. Copy cheques should also be kept on the left side.

The fees associated with the Personal Injuries Board Application are not recoverable on a party and party basis. I suggest you agree a set fee with your client and have your client sign same. This can of course be included in your section 68 letter. Ensure a copy of this signed letter (which is your contract) is kept on the left side of the folder. You are keeping documentary evidence on the left side of the folder for three reasons. The first is so that you can ensure all outlay is recovered from any settlement or award prior to money being handed over to the client, the second is so that you can easily access same for when it is time to address party and party costs and the third is so that you can advise the client during the course of the action (I prefer after the Defence is in) with the estimated costs of bringing the matter to trial.

If liability has not been admitted, you will likely have to commission an engineer report. You should prepare a detailed letter of instructions which notes all documentation you have enclosed in your brief to your engineer. This way you will have evidence of the work done. Again, place this letter on the right side of your file.

I suggest you request a quote for the work done. When the quote is received, obtain approval from your client and place both the quote and the written approval on the left side of the file.

When your expert reports are in, do not pin them to your file folder! You do not want to damage the expert reports. I believe it is best to keep the expert reposts in a separate folder or a plastic folder within your file for expert reports.

When an expert report is received, you should review same and ensure that the report addresses each of the instructions you set out in your letter of instructions. Examine the report to ensure that the facts and findings in the report do not differ from the previous instructions of your client. Create an attendance note confirming that you have done this work and how long it took. I would expect that such work would generally take around half an hour. Place your attendance note on the right side of the folder. Now write off to your client noting your findings having reviewed the report and seek the client’s written approval of same. When the letter is received back from the client place it on the right side of the folder.

When you have received your Authorisation to Proceed, you should seek at least two quotes from Junior Counsel for drawing a Personal Injury Summons and for a Brief. Let your client select the Counsel based off of your recommendations. You are the agent of your client and you must take care that your client obtains the best legal counsel at the most reasonable price. By obtaining approval now, you accomplish two things. Firstly, your client has approved the fee and therefore cannot raise any issue with this fee once the case concludes and secondly, it shows the paying party that you shopped around and established the fair going rate or such work. Place any quotes on the left side of your file folder.

Your letter of instructions to Counsel for drawing proceedings should be detailed and should note all documents included. This way you will have evidence of the work done. Again, place this letter on the right side of your file.

When draft proceedings are in, review same, make sure the facts are correct and the reliefs requested are all encompassing. Make sure you are comfortable that you can prove the allegations made. Amend the draft as necessary and seek written approval of the draft Summons from your client. Keep notes of all work done on the right side of your file to include drafts of the Summons.

If your client is of means, seek the fees for stamp duty for the summons, affidavit of verification and affidavit of service. Keep all receipts on the left side of your folder.

Do not pin the Personal Injuries Summons or the Appearance (once received) on your file. These are Court documents and you do not want to damage these. I suggest maintaining a separate folder or a plastic folder within your file for proceedings.

If Counsel provides you with a fee note at this time, place same on the left side of your folder.

You will likely receive a Notice for Particulars or a Notice for Further Information. Print the rulings of Mahon v Celbridge Spinning Co Ltd(1) and Armstrong v Moffatt(2). These will be your guide for advising the client on which queries are appropriate. Set out in a letter advising the client which queries should be answered and which are matters for discovery, evidence, etc. Draw a draft Reply based off of the instructions on your file and seek any further needed instructions from your client.

Keep an attendance note of the work being done and the issues you are considering on the right side of your file. Note the amount of time being spent. Drawing Replies is a time consuming exercise and you don’t want the time and labour spent on this exercise being underestimated. All draft Replies should be kept on the right side of your file folder.

If you believe it is necessary for Counsel to settle your draft, you should advise the client that the fees of Counsel for this work may not be recoverable and obtain approval written approval for the client. In this way, the client cannot challenge the fee once the case concludes.

Your finalised Replies should be kept with your pleadings.

Once the Defence is in, you should review same and compare it with your Personal Injuries Summons to ensure all matters plead have been addressed. If there are allegations of contributory negligence, you should consider whether or not any additional expert reports will need to be commissioned to defendant against these allegations. A detailed attendance note including the time spent should be kept on the right side of you file folder. You should also send a letter of advices to your client and if possible, set out the fees incurred to date. Do not underestimate your fees! You can also reduce the final amount claimed but you will have difficulty in sustaining any argument for increasing fees. Providing an advice on fees helps to prevent any solicitor and client issues arising and supports your claim for costs both on a solicitor and own client basis and on a party and party basis.

You should draw a detailed letter of instructions for your Case to Counsel to Advise on Proofs which notes all documents you are enclosing. Place your letter of instructions on the right side of the file.

When you receive the Advice on Proofs, review same and take notes of what needs to be done. Please a clean copy of the Advice on Proofs with your pleadings folder and place any working copies with notes on the right side of your file.

If you or Counsel believes it is necessary to update particulars of personal injuries, negligence, loss, etc, place any working copies on the right side of the file folder and the final copies should be kept with the pleadings folder. Always obtain approval from your client for this work and maintain a note confirming your client’s approval. This protects you should there every be any allegations of negligence against you and also supports your claim for fees at the conclusion of the case.

It is likely that at some point, Voluntary Discovery will be requested. Make an attendance note of your observations and thoughts regarding whether or not documents should be discovered. Keep record of the time spent. When any documentation is obtained, review same and note your findings. Ensure that there is no contradiction in the discovered documentation, the expert reports and the instructions from your client. Take an attendance note confirming this work and place it on the right side of your file. If anything arises, seek instructions from your client.

Counsel generally prepares the Affidavit of Discovery; however, an experienced solicitor can also draw same. The fees of Counsel may not always be recovered on a party and party basis and you should advise your client of this and obtain approval if you decide to instruct Counsel. The Affidavit of Discovery should be stamped. Keep a record of the stamp duty paid on the left side and put a copy of the Affidavit of Discovery with the pleadings.

Do not send the documents discovered. Wait to see what documentation is requested from the list of documentation in the Affidavit of Discovery. You should arrange to have same copied and seek the costs of same from the party seeking discovery. Keep a record of all outlay on the left side of your file folder.

If there is a loss of earnings claim, you may need to commission reports from occupational therapists and/or actuaries. Note any documents sent in your letter of instructions and place said letter on the right side of your folder. The expert reports should be reviewed and an attendance note taken with similar working being done by yourself as was done for the medico-legal report review. Obtain approval of the report from the client and advise the client on the fees. If possible, obtain quotes prior to engaging any expert and let your client select the expert. Place any quotes, invoices or fee notes on the left side of your folder.

During the course of the case, you may have been had to issue a motion or defendant against a motion. You should keep all of the motions and affidavits together along with the Court Orders with your pleadings folder.

I say this because when you prepare your Brief to Counsel, you should include these orders. It may be necessary to include reserved costs in any settlement or application to the Court during the hearing of the action for costs. If costs have been awarded against your client, you may wish to seek for the Defendant to forgo any such costs in a settlement. If you do not put these Orders in the brief, same may be easily overlooked.

When settling a matter or when the Court makes an order for costs in your client’s favour, make sure the order is absolutely crystal clear. It would not be uncommon for a Legal Costs Accountant, County Registrar, or Taxing Master to interpret an unclear costs order in the most unfavourable terms towards the party claiming costs.

If you set a matter down for trial but it is not listed, you will only recover the costs of one Counsel for a Settlement Brief to Counsel. If you wish to have both a Senior and Junior present, advise your client of the above and seek written approval as the fees for the second Counsel are coming out of the client’s settlement and will not in any way be recovered from the paying party.

Pre-trial consultation fees are only recovered when the matter is listed.

You should obtain a quote from counsel for the Brief Fee and obtain written approval for same from your client. Place this written approval on the left side of your file.

When sending your letter of instructions to Counsel, be sure to note all of the documents contained within the Brief to Counsel. This can be used as evidence of the nature and extent of work done. Please a copy of this letter on the right side of your file folder.

Keep an attendance note of who attends the pre-trial consultation, what is discussed, what instructions are given and how long the consultation took place.

Keep an attendance note of any hearing or settlement meeting to include who attended, what offers were made and above all, the exact terms of any settlement or court ruling with special attention towards costs.

When the matter is settled or the court has made its ruling, you should prioritise obtaining all fee notes from marshalled witnesses and from Counsel. It is absolutely imperative that same are obtained prior to releasing any funds to the client.

Once all fee notes are in, you should raise a fee to the client. If the client approves same and provides you with written consent, you should deduct all fees from the award. If not, instruct a legal costs accountant to draw a solicitor and own client bill of costs in due haste and advise your client of the right to taxation.

This is very rare and normally only arises where a solicitor has failed to advise the client of the fees arising during the course of the case. The steps above are set out so as to avoid this issue from arising and to protect you, the solicitor, should there be any challenge to the fees claimed.