In response to the rising number of LiPs, even in High Court claims and in the Court of Appeal, joint Guidance has been issued by The Law Society, Bar Council and Chartered Institute of Legal Executives on how lawyers should deal with them, without conflicting with their duties to clients and as officers of the court. Although addressed to lawyers, the Guidance recognises that it may be of assistance also to their clients and to LiPs.
The Guidance covers:
- Communicating with LiPs: It recommends lawyers adopt a professional and courteous approach at all times, communicating clearly and avoiding technical language. They should recommend that LiPs seek independent legal advice, or direct them to advice agencies. A list of sources of advice and information is annexed, together with a Note for LiPs explaining the limited assistance that an opponent lawyer can provide. Whilst provision of the Note to an LiP is not mandatory, it will be good practice in future for lawyers to send it to LiPs. LiPs may be aware of it in any event.
- Explaining to clients: Lawyers should explain to their clients why they are giving assistance to the opposing party, emphasising that they have a professional duty to the court that may require the provision of procedural assistance to an LiP. A Note for clients is annexed to the guidance; it sets out the nature of the lawyer's duty to the court and that this may conflict with duties to clients; it explains, for example, why hearings involving LiPs are often longer and that parties who are represented may be asked to provide court bundles, even in cases where that would normally be the responsibility of the LiP.
- Case management: A case involving an LiP might require more directions hearings than would usually be necessary, or a pre-trial review. The Guidance suggests that it may be helpful for such cases to be reserved to the same judge. If it ever appears that an LiP is heading towards non-compliance with a case management order, lawyers should consider drawing this to the LiP’s attention.