Our lawyers are here to help you. We want to do so efficiently and cost-effectively. However, we have seen some clients unwittingly hamper their own case or add to their legal costs unnecessarily, despite the fact that they may have the best of intentions. From what we have seen, we can offer the following suggestions.
Don’t hold back important facts
Remember that our relationship is governed by solicitor – client privilege. Everything that you tell us is confidential. For that reason, you should not hesitate to tell us about things that you might not want others (including the other side) to know about. Unfortunately, we have had experiences for our clients choose not to tell us about facts that are important but adversely impact their position. If we had known about them, then our advice and recommended strategy would have been quite different. Because we didn’t know about them initially, we proceeded down one path, and then had to backtrack when faced with new information that our client chose not to provide us with that weakened their case. By way of example, imagine a scenario where we write on behalf of an employer client and adamantly state that “they were completely unaware of any need for accommodation”, only to subsequently learn that the individual’s manager had been asked for accommodation but ignored the request.
It is always best to provide us with all relevant information at the outset, so that we can give you an informed opinion and develop a strategy that takes all facts into account, rather than having to react and adapt our strategy later.
Come with questions, not answers
There is so much information available these days that we would be hard-pressed to expect that you will not do any research before meeting with us. In fact, simply by reading our blog, you will already have some knowledge about the law and how it may impact your situation. However, we also have had experiences where clients either obtain information relating to other jurisdictions (like the United States) and have a completed misguided understanding of their situation, or they do some online research and come in having already made up their mind as to the best strategy. Please remember that you are retaining us for our knowledge and paying us for our advice. In the same way that you would not go to your doctor and tell them what medication you need,, you should not come to us and tell us how you want to proceed. By all means, tell us all of the background information, and tell us what your goals are. We will then discuss the best strategy.
Remember that you will be charged for our time
We are always happy to answer your questions. However, we have had some clients that call constantly, and provide information on a piecemeal basis, which adds significantly to the time that we spend on their case. When they get their first invoice, they are shocked. Please remember that all telephone calls, email communications, and document reviews count and will be reflected in your bill. For that reason, we encourage you to send all relevant information and questions at one time, with documents scanned individually in PDF format. We can then also schedule meetings or telephone calls to review all of your questions, rather than doing them haphazardly.
Be realistic in your expectations
As we stated above, do not come in with expectations before you speak with us and get our opinion. That is what you are paying us for. Once we provide you with our opinion, you should then take the time to consider what your objectives are, bearing in mind costs, time, and other factors. By way of example, once we explain the law of mitigation to you, you should not expect to receive two years of pay in lieu of notice after you obtain new employment within a matter of weeks. We will tell you if, in our view, your expectations are unrealistic. We will not over-promise and under-deliver. While we can never promise a result, we will not mislead you into expecting more than we think is realistic.
Understand that our staff cannot provide legal advice
Sometimes, our clients will try to avoid legal cost by asking our staff for advice or opinions on what they should do. While our team is always happy to talk to you, and you should communicate with our staff for purely administrative matters rather than engaging our lawyers and incurring unnecessary costs, you should also understand that our staff cannot provide legal advice or opinions, and you should get that from one of them lawyers assigned to your case.
For employer clients
Make us a part of your team and not someone that you only contact every few years
As we often say, we want to develop an ongoing relationship with our employer clients whereby we become your Trusted Advisor. We want to take the time to understand your business, your goals and your challenges when we begin working with you. We will then be available to help you with any situation that arises. Unfortunately, we have had some clients that try to avoid that legal costs by taking steps without consulting us. For example, they will hire a new employee, or dismiss an existing one, without obtaining our advice. In many cases, we only find out when they receive a demand letter from the former employee’s lawyer, or something happens that raises a legal concern. At that point, it is often too late to undo what was done, and we can only work to minimize the damage. As we often say, it almost always costs less to avoid a problem than to fix it. For that reason, we encourage you to let us know of any actions that you plan to take which could impact your legal position. It can be as simple as a five-minute phone call, or a quick email exchange. But that can help you save thousands of dollars in the long run.
Don’t keep reusing templates
As we mentioned in the HR Checkup portion of the website, part of what we like to do with our clients is to develop contracts, policies and procedures that will put our clients in a strong legal position. In many cases, we will develop several contract templates, which will relate to different types of employees (such as managers, sales staff, manual labourers, office staff, etc). However, one mistake that we often see clients make is that they continue to use these templates for years without consulting us.
Legislation and legal interpretations, as well as HR best practices, evolve over time. The templates that we draft now are not exactly the same as those we drafted two or three years ago. Every new hire should have a contact that is tailored to their position, even if it is only changing their title, duties, and compensation. You should have us review any contract before it is presented to a proposed employee, so that we can advise you of any concerns. Furthermore, you should never modify the template without consulting with us. We have had some clients make modifications that they thought were innocuous, but that dramatically changed their position for the worse.