When we deal with a prospective client we are generally happy to have an initial no cost chat with them about their situation. We often spend some time going through their case, review documents and then give some provisional advice without charge. Indeed, many lawyers do the same. It is a chance to demonstrate to a client they are in safe hands should they Instruct you but most importantly for the client to feel comfortable with you.
However, we often also get calls where it soon becomes obvious that the person calling already has a lawyer instructed. The caller will casually drop this into the conversation when they call and won’t necessarily see anything wrong with this. Unfortunately there are a number of problems with this - not least the ethical questions it can raise – but also potential conflicts which may then confuse the client as to which advice to follow.
Quite often a typical conversation will start off with a client mentioning that they have a lawyer abroad dealing with a particular legal issue for them but they are not happy with their lawyer or have lost confidence in that existing lawyer for some reason. Their foreign lawyer may be helping them buy a property or carry out some litigation but they can’t find out what is going on as their foreign lawyer is not communicating with them in a timely fashion, the fees being requested by their lawyer continue to increase without explanation, or they quite simply aren’t happy with the way things are working.
Born usually of frustration, we would receive a call to discuss the case and to provide some advice. One of the main problems with this is scenario is if you already have a lawyer instructed, ethically we will struggle to assist.
However, there are circumstances where we would be able to provide advice and even act for you. These are;
- We can act for you in a completely different case. For example, you may have one lawyer helping you with a purchase of a property and we could act for you on a litigation case which is unrelated to that purchase. In those circumstances we would not be instructed on the same thing as the original lawyer and therefore there is no overlap and therefore no professional discourtesy to a fellow lawyer.
- You have lost all confidence in your existing lawyer and wish to change representation. You will have to communicate your wish to disengage their services and to pay the existing lawyer for the work already carried out on your file to that date before they (your existing lawyers) will release the file to us.
- We can act on the same case as the existing lawyer if the other lawyer is aware of this and gives their consent – i.e. they are happy to work with us on that particular case. We actually do this with surprising frequency. We often find that somebody has instructed a lawyer in say Spain, Portugal or Cyprus and then has problems communicating with them or understanding them. Equally, we often find that the lawyer in that other country finds it difficult also to understand the client both from a language point of view and a cultural point of view. We can then work with both the client and their lawyer to make communication easier and to make sure that everybody understands what is going on and what is needed with a view to getting the case back on track and proceeding as quickly as possible.
We liaise with all parties and quite often the foreign lawyer is pleased to have our assistance.
Another reason why some people contact us is to try and keep costs down. They will have their own lawyer but will try and get free advice from other lawyers with a view to keeping down the existing legal costs. They will speak to one lawyer and get as much information as they can. They then use that information to go to the next lawyer and try again but with the information they gleaned from the first lawyer. They may even do this several times.
Unfortunately this can be a dangerous approach as none of the lawyers receive the full picture and often the client steers the conversation in the direction they believe they should go rather than getting considered and relevant legal advice. We tend to find that people who do this often get themselves confused as they may get conflicting answers without understanding why.
We are happy to provide a certain amount of legal advice for free and are happy to chat to clients about their legal issues in a general manner. However if you already have a foreign lawyer instructed, and feel confused at the advice you are receiving, don’t be afraid to raise your concerns with the foreign lawyer and request relevant clarifications on the case with them. They will know the history of the case and therefore should be able to give you better advice than we would in a brief initial conversation.
If you are unhappy with your existing foreign lawyer and want a second opinion, would like us to work with them on your case or even wish to discuss the possibility of us taking over the case then you can contact our legal team in confidence.
Disclaimer – International legal issues are a complex area of law and this information is no substitute for independent legal advice on an individual basis taking into consideration your personal circumstances and legal requirements. This information is provided to provide general information only and was correct at the time of publishing. The legal position in relation to international transactions can change frequently and this page may not have been updated following any changes in the law. You should therefore not rely on this information and should seek legal advice in relation to your personal circumstances.