It is no secret that solicitors in Hong Kong are under increasing time pressure from clients to provide accurate, succinct, affordable and easy-to-follow advice on highly complex legal issues. This dynamic can be especially challenging for those who are at a relatively early stage of their legal careers. There are two main kinds of skills that need to be mastered in order to meet these expectations; those related to the ‘processes’ of drafting client correspondence and those related to the end ‘products’, being the final version of the correspondence which is sent to the client. In this article, we provide a few tips on improving the processes of drafting client correspondence. In particular, for those for whom writing correspondence under these trying conditions is not quite second nature, we suggest employing the following processes to maximise the quality of their products.
- Make the time to obtain clear and comprehensive instructions from your client. What exactly is their situation? What outcomes are they seeking to achieve?
- Carry out any research prior to writing your advice, rather than trying to carry out these two processes simultaneously.
- If the advice requires deep critical analysis and creative and lateral thinking, consider drafting in an environment free from the constant distraction of email and phone calls, such as a break-out or meeting room.
- Craft the essential elements of your initial analysis in a first draft before expressing it more fully. In litigation matters, the IRAC methodology of legal analysis (issue, rule, application and conclusion) is a good start. In commercial matters, a similar structure could be usefully adopted. Namely, ascertaining and identifying the relevant facts about your client’s situation, confirming the outcomes which the client aims to achieve and then setting out the different options the client has to achieve such aims and his or her prospects of success.
- Finally, despite the pressure for a quick turn-around, devote as much time as you can to proofreading your products before these go to the client. Also, separating out your proofreading into discrete stages for accuracy of content, general readability, grammar and spelling will further reduce the possibility of any errors across these areas.
In next month’s issue, we will recommend some skills you can utilise to improve your final products.
Readers who want to learn more about improving both their processes and products can visit the Legal English in Hong Kong website at https://legalenglish.hk and view the video-based interviews with legal experts on these topics.