InvestigateA client walks into your office without an appointment.  A court application has to be filed urgently.  You are already swamped with other urgent work.  What do you do?

The practical tips in this 3 part blog are aimed to assist you manage such situations effectively, and to ultimately impress the Judge, your client, and you opponent.

1. GET ORGANISED

It is easy to get overwhelmed when you are placed in the position described at the outset.  But, don’t panic.  Take a deep breath and think.  You will need to prioritise your work.  So, can some files be put aside until tomorrow?  What resources can you draw on?  Can you delegate tasks to junior staff?  Can your secretary return calls for you?  Can your partner or supervisor assist?  Then, get organised.  Clear your desk so that you are not distracted.  Put telephone calls on hold.  If you deal with this urgent matter efficiently you will be able to return to your other work without any of your clients feeling neglected.

 

2. KNOW YOUR CASE

Be thorough and efficient from the very beginning.  Have a precedent checklist or questionnaire for your client relevant to that type of matter.  Use it and the first conference to obtain as much information as possible.  Start creating a chronology immediately and try not to leave gaps.  Do not hold back from asking your client for more information.  You must know all the facts to understand your case.  Then, outline the options to your client.  Make sure your client understands the alternatives to litigation.  Is an application really necessary?  If so, consider what other information or documents you need to draft the supporting material.  Ask your client to obtain it as soon as possible.  If you feel that your client may not be proactive, obtain authorities from your client and commence gathering the information on their behalf.

 

3. KNOW THE LAW

You must be familiar with the law to prepare your supporting material.  Start with the legislation and the relevant sections.   Address the criteria of each section and subsection in your client’s affidavit or statement.  Then, review the current case law.  Gather authorities on point which support your case.  Be prepared to distinguish authorities against you.  Do not ignore them.  Gain access to a legal database where you can quickly review the commentary on the topic.  It will give you a summary of recent developments.  Be familiar with the rules of the court, such as the material to be filed, time for service, and manner of service.

 

4. THINK ABOUT YOUR CASE THEORY

When drafting your material, work backwards.  Start with the orders your client is seeking.  If you are not sure if the orders are enforceable, you may need to do some research.  You may also need to look at some precedent orders.  Once you have drafted the orders, consider what you need to show to justify the court making these orders.  Address this in your supporting material.
Always develop a case theory.  What is your client’s case?  Is your client’s version of events plausible?  Does it make sense?  Address any inconsistencies and deal with the weaknesses of your case.  Anticipate what the response may be and if possible address this in the material.

Always consider alternatives to the orders you are seeking.  You may not get exactly what your client wants, so, could your client settle for something else?

Once you have drafted the orders and developed a case theory you will be in a position to start preparing your application and supporting material.

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