You want to ensure that your first meeting with your solicitor is as useful as possible. To ensure your solicitor thoroughly understands your problem and can provide you with proper legal advice as swiftly as possible, it’s a good idea to put together any relevant paperwork to bring to the meeting, putting it in some sort of order so you can refer to it quickly.
What paperwork you need depends to a certain extent on the nature of your problem but there are some pieces of documentation which will always be useful at the first meeting. These are:
Anti-terror and anti-money-laundering rules require lawyers to verify the identity of the person or body they are dealing with before they can accept their business. It is also considered good practice for them to verify your address. It’s unlikely a lawyer will turn you away if you come to the first meeting without relevant ID but you will have to produce it at some point so you might as well bring it with you to the initial meeting so the lawyer can tick the ID verification box and start sorting out your problem straight away.
In most cases when you’re meeting your lawyer in person, producing a valid passport or photocard identification should enable you to meet the identification requirements. Other forms of valid ID include: birth certificate; current photocard driver's licence; residence permit issued by the Home Office; photographic registration cards for self-employed individuals and partnerships in the construction industry.
Proof of address can come in any of the following forms: benefit book or notification letter from the DWP confirming right to benefits; council tax bill; utility bill/ statement, or a certificate from a utilities supplier confirming an arrangement to pay services on pre-payment terms; bank, building society or credit union statement or passbook containing current address; entry in a local or national telephone directory confirming name and address; electoral register entry; recent original mortgage statement from a recognised lender; solicitor's letter confirming recent house purchase or land registry confirmation of address; local council or housing association rent card or tenancy agreement; HMRC self-assessment statement or tax demand.
Those seeking advice on behalf of a company still need to provide the same proof of ID as individuals (above), although if you are a professional listed in a professional directory you can use this to confirm your name and business address and it won’t usually be necessary to then confirm your home address.
You will need to provide identification and verification of the existence of your company and also proof that you have the authority to instruct a lawyer on the company’s behalf. Sources for verifying corporate identification may include: certificate of incorporation; details from the relevant company registry, confirming details of the company and of the director, including the directors’ addresses; filed audited accounts; or information from a reputable electronic verification service provider. If you are a company director or secretary and someone has a beneficial interest in the transaction you are conducting through the solicitor you will need to provide proof of their identity too. Such a beneficiary would include, eg, a shareholder who has a 25% or more shares in that company.
This should include questions about the cost of the lawyer’s services; potential timeframe for completing the transaction; possible solutions to your problem and the pros and cons of each; whether you’ll need to go to court; whether your lawyer is qualified to take the case; how he/she plans to communicate with you; and how he/she plans to proceed from here.
It would be helpful to list a summary of your problem, including any pertinent dates and a timeline of events leading up to your decision to consult a lawyer.
Apart from those recommended above, the other types of documents you might need to take with when you consult a solicitor will depend on what your problem involves.
If someone has died and you are responsible for administering their estate it’s advisable to take legal advice because the job carries a lot of responsibility and you can be held personally liable if you get something wrong. Documents you should take with you on the first meeting with your solicitor include:
Individuals may be eligible for legal aid so if you are on benefits you should bring with you documentation proving this so the lawyer can advise you on whether you might be able to receive some of their services for free.
If you’re a director whose company could face insolvency, for example, documents you might want to take with you include:
If you have fired someone and they are bringing an unfair dismissal claim against you, documents you might want to take with you include:
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