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Advice on wording of a letter to a solicitor(5 Posts)
Hoping for some advice on the wording of a letter.
We’re in a dispute over a fairly complicated situation with someone who did some work for us last year. We don’t really need legal advice on the situation, as we’re pretty clear on where we stand (seems solid, legally) having done extensive research ourselves and taken advantage of the free legal advice offered by my union.
I need to reply to the other person’s solicitor detailing our position on the matter, and had got advice from the union solicitor on what to put in the letter. At the end of the letter we have stated along the lines of “you have 30 days to respond before we take further action.”
My partner thinks there might be some legal thing that makes us liable for the other party’s legal costs if we give a deadline for reply like that. I have no idea and can’t find any clarification online. Does it sound okay to give a deadline for reply before we take further action (i.e. potentially go into legal proceedings), or does that trigger some magical legal clause that we’re stumbling into?
Sorry it’s all a bit vague - don’t want to go into details of the situation as it’s outing, so I suppose all I’m really asking is, is there anything we should avoid saying in a letter in response to the other party’s solicitor? The union solicitor said we should make our case as clearly as we can with supporting evidence and detail. I’ve used up the 30 free minutes now so can’t go back to them without incurring costs.
Does this make any sense?
You must follow the pre-action protocol. As you won't share what it's about, you'll have to research whether your kind of case has its own pre-action protocol, but if it doesn't you'll need to follow para 6 of the practice direction on this:
...the parties should exchange correspondence and information to comply with the objectives in paragraph 3, bearing in mind that compliance should be proportionate. The steps will usually include—
(a) the claimant writing to the defendant with concise details of the claim. The letter should include the basis on which the claim is made, a summary of the facts, what the claimant wants from the defendant, and if money, how the amount is calculated;
(b) the defendant responding within a reasonable time - 14 days in a straight forward case and no more than 3 months in a very complex one. The reply should include confirmation as to whether the claim is accepted and, if it is not accepted, the reasons why, together with an explanation as to which facts and parts of the claim are disputed and whether the defendant is making a counterclaim as well as providing details of any counterclaim; and
(c) the parties disclosing key documents relevant to the issues in dispute.
Para 3 says:
3. Before commencing proceedings, the court will expect the parties to have exchanged sufficient information to—
(a) understand each other’s position;
(b) make decisions about how to proceed;
(c) try to settle the issues without proceedings;
(d) consider a form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) to assist with settlement;
(e) support the efficient management of those proceedings; and
(f) reduce the costs of resolving the dispute.
You’re fine to give a deadline. The costs issue comes into play if an offer is made and declined then the declining party doesn’t manage to get a better award in court than was offered before hand.
Thanks all, we are following the pre-action protocol. If he does proceed with action we have a strong case to counterclaim, but hopefully he will give up before it comes to that (since we’ll all end up back at square one, but out court costs).
Not a lawyer, but...
Not entirely sure why you are pushing for a response deadline, after which you will take action, when you are the Defendant and it sounds like you will only take action (counterclaim), if the Claimant pursues their case.
That said, if you take, for example, the Pre-Action Protocol for Construction and Engineering Disputes, if the Defendant, in their response to a Letter of Claim outlines a counterclaim, the Protocol allows 21 days for the Claimant to respond to the Counterclaim.
But yes, follow the relevant Pre-Action Protocol and also look up the Practice Direction which Collaborate mentions (Practice Directions are useful for the interpretation of all Civil Procedure Rules or CPRs which provide the framework for civil litigation).
Hopefully you will have received some advice on the risks/benefits of possible litigation and will have an idea of the likely track to which this claim might be allocated. Usually, but not always, claims worth £10k or lower will be allocated to the small claims track, which is designed to allow people to represent themselves and where solicitors fees are not recoverable. A higher track - fast or multi - is a whole different ballgame with the potential for the losing party to cop for the other side's (sometimes exhorbitant) solicitors' fees.
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