A brief is an authority and instruction provided by a solicitor to counsel to undertake specified work.
A well prepared brief will normally contain the following:
The index should be the first page of the brief. The index should describe all documents and enclosures under appropriate headings and in chronological order.
The instructing solicitor should select a barrister who practices in that area of law and is available to accept the brief.
Counsel may be briefed to draw or settle pleadings etc, give oral or written advice and to appear at trial.
Generally, where counsel is being sent a brief requesting advice, the instructing solicitor should formulate the questions counsel is being asked to consider. It is not uncommon to also ask counsel to advise on any other relevant matter arising out of the brief.
The memorandum from the instructing solicitor should include all the relevant facts and information which would enable counsel to understand the issue at hand. The facts should be logically and concisely recorded.
Where Counsel is briefed to draw or settle pleadings and/or appear at Trial, the instructing solicitor should also advise counsel of the evidence available to support the client's claim and whether facts and assertions can be verified in other ways.
The solicitor's instructions should refer to the relevant case law and any unusual points of law, with particular reference to the facts of the matter. If the instructing solicitor has concerns about any aspect of the case, these should also be outlined to counsel.
Other matters which should be included in a brief, if relevant, are:
Relevant documents to be annexed to the brief may include:
If it is necessary to include voluminous documents in a brief, it is usual practice for the brief to be included in an lever arch file, and the various sections of the brief to be divided by separating tabs for easy reference.
Each task which the barrister is briefed to do should be noted. Where counsel is briefed to appear the following additional information should be provided:
It is the solicitor's responsibility to negotiate a fee with counsel, and this negotiation should occur at the time the brief is offered to counsel. It is good practice for the solicitor to mark the negotiated fee on the backsheet of the brief.
If counsel's advice is urgently required, it is good practice to include on the cover words to the effect "URGENT- MUST BE COMPLETED BY..."
A brief should be delivered to counsel in a timely manner so that the barrister has sufficient time to become familiar with the matter and to research the relevant legal issues.
Clients may be disadvantaged if counsel is briefed at the very last moment. However, if a brief is urgent, it should be marked as such and counsel advised.
The instructing solicitor should always review counsel's work and ensure that counsel has performed the requested task. Furthermore, the instructing solicitor should also note any matters which counsel has indicated require attention and whether any action needs to be taken in response to counsel's advice.
The instructing solicitor should also consider providing the client with a copy of counsel's advice, under cover of an explanatory letter.