Preparing a brief to Counsel

This month we are looking in a little more detail at how to prepare a brief to counsel. Whilst for many of you this may be like teaching grandmothers to suck eggs, for others it might be helpful to spend some time considering how to ensure that your barrister is as well briefed as possible so that they can provide the best service for your client. So here are some top tips:

What should the brief contain?

  • All orders and applications
  • Statements
  • Expert’s reports
  • An asset schedule (if relevant)
  • Any other evidence in the case
  • Schedules of costs (if applicable)
  • Any preliminary documents you have drafted for previous hearings
  • Relevant correspondence and attendance notes

The papers (including the correspondence) should be set out in chronological order.

Don’t include all attendance notes without considering if counsel really needs to read them – try to be selective and send only the attendance notes which will impart useful information.

Don’t send long email chains, with copies of previous emails – organise the emails that you send so that the barrister only receives one copy of each email, in the correct order.

Separate out without prejudice correspondence.

What should the instructions include?

  • Basic background information and factual details in chronological order;
  • A summary of the issues in the case;
  • An outline of the advice you have given to the client so that the barrister has an understanding of the client’s expectations and of your view of the case; Specific instructions to counsel to advise on a particular issue, try to avoid asking counsel to “advise generally” – be specific about the advice you need;
  • Explain what is of particular importance to the client and where their priorities lie;
  • Where counsel is briefed to attend a hearing, provide the time, date and court of the hearing with the time of meeting the client at court;
  • Give details about who will be attending court (both from your own office and if family members / friends will be accompanying your client);
  • If counsel is asked to draft documents, give specific details of which documents you require, and deadlines;
  • Your contact details and availability;
  • Do not include anything that you would not be happy for your client to read; if you need to, arrange a phone call with counsel to provide any such details.


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