Continuing our series of blogs looking at some of the many queries received from our clients through our Ask Teal service, we consider how to deal with clients who, whilst wanting their matter to progress as quickly as possible, drag their feet in providing information requested from them.
Question: Any tips for dealing with clients who are anxious for early progress in their matters but slow to provide information and/or return signed engagement letters? Should we be suspicious?
First, we need to consider why we ask clients to sign and return engagement letters. Many lawyers that we speak to believe that a key reason for this is to assist firms to get paid. Engagement letters contain a large amount of information, much of it required to be given to clients by Regulation.
Asking clients to sign and return letters is a way of ensuring that firms have discharged their obligations to provide the information required, and it enables firms to be able to demonstrate this.
You can ask your client to confirm by email that they’ve received, read, understood and agree to the content of the engagement letter if they cannot return a signed copy to you. There is nothing in the SRA Code of Conduct that requires that a letter of engagement be signed and returned by a client, although clearly it is good practice to do so.
Someone who is disinterested in a matter or evasive in sending information back to you may be a “red flag” and an indication of possible fraud, so this should always be borne in mind.
However, in the current circumstances, you should be prepared to take into account that clients will find it very difficult to get out and about and are having to adhere to the latest Government guidance on social distancing and it is this fact that may lead to unavoidable delays in you obtaining documents and information.