Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Legal Support

“The good lawyer is not the man who has an eye to every side and angle of contingency, and qualifies all his qualifications, but who throws himself on your part so heartily, that he can get you out of a scrape.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

If you have full confidence in your union representative then you are fortunate. Nevertheless, I would strongly recommend seeking independent legal advice for your own reassurance.

Any allegation of abuse against you must be taken seriously, realize that it can lead to your loss of liberty, livelihood and contact with your own children.

In such cases, you will need one, two or all of the following types of legal support :
  • A criminal defence solicitor to represent you at a police interview, trial and any appeal.

  • A solicitor with specialist knowledge of Employment Law and with experience of the education system to deal with issues relating to suspension, investigative process, disciplinary hearing and its outcome.

  • A family solicitor to deal with any problems that might arise in relation to contact with your own children.
Finding a solicitor is not easy and personal recommendations are unlikely to help. Local solicitors will not have the range of skills / experience needed and you will have to explore wider a field. I found my solicitor after much reading and research on the Internet.

Prior to contacting a solicitor have as much of the background to your case available in a format suitable for e-mailing. Your documentation should be in Microsoft Word and any photographic / scanned information should be in JPEG format.

Most firms of solicitors will provide an introductory ‘free’ consultation - usually about 30 minutes. So before making your first telephone call, try to summarize your situation and apprehensions, as concisely as possible, on paper. During your initial conversation suggest e-mailing your documentation so that they are more able to consider your case. Suggest that you call again the following day to discuss the matter further and to obtain details of expected costs in handling your case.

There are many articles that describe the solicitor / client relationship; stressing the importance that they are under your instruction. Unless you have in-depth experience of the law, it is unlikely that you will be in a position to instruct a solicitor. You need a solicitor who is able to take the lead and be pro-active in their actions - in effect you need to be instructed in the ‘best’ course of action. More importantly, realize that you are recruiting a partner - someone who believes and understands you and someone who you can trust with your life.

Costs ? Solicitors fees are expensive - in relation to what ? - your life ? At the initial meeting / contact with your solicitor, you should be provided with a basic outline of their standard charges; hourly rates, telephone calls and letters. They should be able to provide an estimate of the total costs but this will be subject to change as your case progresses.

It is possible that you might be able to claim ‘Legal Aid’ for certain aspects of your case and your solicitor can advise you about your eligibility. It is also possible that some of your costs might be covered by your domestic insurance policies. For example, my house contents insurance has provision for covering legal costs in court cases involving my employer.

A good solicitor will encourage you to take responsibility for some aspects of your case, to keep you involved and to save money. There will be many reports to prepare and witness information to be collated - at times, it will be more effective for you to undertake this work.

In my case, I have had occasion to use the services of two firms of solicitors and my experience has been excellent. They both provided support beyond that expected and with care and understanding.