Although you may be focussed solely on success in litigation, your solicitor also has to consider a whole different set of guidelines. These are known as the Civil Procedure Rules (CPRs) and set out the correct legal procedures that should be followed during the case, from starting an action to working out costs. Your solicitor may also refer to the ‘White Book’; this is the nickname given to the book that contains the CPRs along with guidance, case studies and ‘Practice Directions’ (PDs) given by the courts so that the CPRs can be interpreted sensibly and practically. This ensures that all cases follow a straightforward, logical path that is just and fair to all parties, and therefore makes cases easier for the courts to manage.
The most important CPR is, sensibly enough, CPR 1, which is known as the ‘Overriding Objective’. This basically states that all parties, including the courts themselves, must ‘deal with cases justly’. This means that everything must be done to make sure the case is fair; for example:
- Ensuring the parties are on an equal footing, so one is not just able to bully the other into submission;
- Saving money, so that no-one is forced to settle for fear of bankruptcy;
- Dealing with the case sensibly and proportionately; this means considering the value of the claim, the legal complexities, the importance of the case and the financial positions of both parties and keeping these considerations in mind when making orders;
- Giving appropriate time and resources to the case to deal with the issues quickly and fairly.
The CPRs apply to everyone equally, and should be considered at all stages of the proceedings. In addition, as officers of the court, solicitors owe a duty to the courts to ensure that their clients behave themselves in line with the Overriding Objective.
As if this wasn’t enough, solicitors have another set of rules to adhere to. These are laid out by the Solicitor’s Regulatory Authority and are concerned mainly with professional conduct. This ensures that the legal profession as a whole is honest, trustworthy and responsible and that justice is always best served. A solicitor must at all times;
- Act with integrity, balanced with acting in the best interests of his client.
- Be independent but not clouded by personal interest.
- Provide a good standard of service, never acting in a way that would diminish confidence in the solicitor, or the profession as a whole.
There are therefore some situations where your solicitor will encourage you to give the other side or the court documents that weaken your case, inspire you to act and speak honestly and openly, and help you to help the court in deciding a case fairly. In extreme cases, such as where your solicitor is aware you have lied, destroyed documents or otherwise intentionally misled the court, they may refuse to continue to act for you in order to maintain these objectives.