Chris Clark shares his experiences as a Dispute Resolution Solicitor at Else Solicitors.
Monday mornings start with a Teams call with all members of the firm to catch up on the previous week, share success stories and discuss possible routes of cross-referral work. During the pandemic the firm adopted a hybrid working structure, which they have maintained post-lockdown so whilst not everyone is in the office, we all still have the chance to catch up on a weekly basis. I am fortunate enough to work from home on a Monday, so this meeting provides an opportunity right at the start of the week to communicate with my team and the other departments in the firm.
Following the meeting, I usually go straight to my emails, file any correspondence received over the weekend and review my tasks for the week. I use this as an opportunity to check on any deadlines for the week (disclosure deadlines, hearing fees and any other reminders I have input into my schedule to ensure the case remains on track). I find this time useful as it also provides me with a chance to ensure my work is balanced across the week.
I currently have a few cases proceeding towards final hearing so there is always something to do! One case in particular is reaching the time where instructions to counsel for the final hearing are going to be needed, however this week, I drafted and filed the Updated Schedule of Loss, and held a strategy/ settlement discussion with the client.
Tuesday is an office day for me and I’m acting for an international client on a winding up and a bankruptcy matter for two large-scale commercial debts. Both cases are heading towards their relevant hearings, and I have been considering the work which is required on each case before providing a specific fee quote for the client’s agreement.
A key part of my job is to ensure clients are updated every step of the way in terms of case developments, risks and fee lability. I have a good relationship with the client and our open conversations in terms of prospects, costs and potential settlements means the client is always aware of what is needed.
My next task is to consider another high-value dispute, this time for breach of contract. Proceedings have been issued and a Defence has been filed. Careful consideration of the Defence is needed to assess whether a formal Reply is required, or whether the parties can simply proceed to prepare their respective Direction Questionnaires and Proposed Directions. Fortunately, in this particular case, I am working closely with the client and specialist counsel to provide expert advice on the ‘nitty-gritty’ elements of the dispute.
I am working from home today and I have recently converted an enquiry into a new instruction. I therefore need to review the documentation provided by the client and provide our advice on the best and most cost-effective way to proceed with the case. I find hybrid working an extremely effective way of working as on days like today, where I have a mountain of documents to review, working in the quiet of my ‘home office’ (aka the spare bedroom) allows me to really focus! Following my review of the documentation, I draft our formal advice to the client and propose a conference for us to run over the points raised. This provides me with a further opportunity to get to know the client and is a great chance for them to ask any questions.
One of the great things about the firm is the variety of work we have the opportunity to be involved with. Another one of my cases involves an allegation of breach of director duties however, after a lengthy mediation process, we are almost at final settlement! We are therefore in the midst of drafting the settlement agreement, which I am drafting with supervision from our firms Managing Partner.
Another in-office day! I find working in the office every other day really useful because it means I have the best of both worlds… gone are the days of being in the office 5 days a week, however working in the office 2 or 3 days a week has been beneficial in so many ways!
Today I am assisting the Managing Partner in an effort to get a long-standing dispute over the line. The parties appear to have reached a compromise on the various disputes between them and it’s time to draft the settlement deed. As I am assisting the Managing Partner, I am creating the first draft to be reviewed before sending the same out to the client for approval.
Thursdays are usually my last day in the office until the following Tuesday, so I make time each week to review my caseload, my tasks and to prepare for my days at home. Certain tasks are easier in the office (preparing a trial bundle for example) therefore I make sure my tasks are suitable for the next few days.
I am at home today however I have a property dispute where the Tribunal have ordered our costs be paid by the other side. I take instructions and prepare a detailed costs schedule, taking into account all work completed on the matter by the relevant fee earners. This is a very important piece of work as it could be the difference between the parties being able to agree a settlement now or proceeding with a costly and protracted costs assessment.
I find Friday afternoons are good chance to catch up with any training and new enquiries the team have received. An existing client has made an enquiry in relation to a high-value commercial debt which my senior colleague has asked me to deal with. Following this I contact the client, have an initial chat about what has happened and request the relevant documents in order to consider what causes of action might be possible on the case.
It’s important to maintain my CPD requirements, therefore most weeks, I will assess where I am with my training record. The firm have unlimited access to Seminars and Webinars provided by MBL which I find to be extremely comprehensive courses. This week I have noticed a number of further courses have been added to the packs provided and therefore I plan to take some time next week to attend a webinar – this time, on Enforcement of Judgments.