Representation in court
If you are involved in litigation or legal proceedings, you will probably need legal representation. This is provided by a solicitor and, possibly, a barrister.
To enquire whether you are eligible for legal aid or advice from the Legal Aid Board, contact your nearest law centre. You can also contact your nearest Citizens Information Centre for information on FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) services in your area.
As well as representing people involved in litigation, solicitors provide services that are not connected with court proceedings. For example, a solicitor may assist you in the preparation and formalisation of your will or with the legal transfer of your property (conveyancing).
Solicitors can advertise their services. They deal with the public, take instructions from clients, do the necessary background work on cases, give preliminary advice, obtain expert or specialist opinion if necessary and instruct barristers if required.
The solicitor prepares the case for the trial. They may represent you in court but will usually instruct a barrister to represent you in the higher courts. This is done by sending the barrister a brief containing all the relevant information and documentation to assist them in the presentation of the case.
You can read more about the role of solicitors in the Irish justice system.
Barristers, also known as Counsel, generally operate from the Law Library. They cannot advertise or solicit clients and do not generally have direct access to the public. They take their instructions from solicitors.
They provide legal advice of a specialist nature and generally represent the client in court.
There is a distinction between Junior and Senior Counsel. Many junior barristers consider becoming a Senior Counsel after about 15 years of practice. Senior Counsel are barristers with greater experience or expertise. They tend to do less drafting of court documents and spend more time giving advice and conducting cases in the higher courts.
Find out more about the role of barristers in the Irish justice system.
Information a solicitor needs
You need to be well-prepared before you start to instruct a solicitor to make sure you get the best outcome. For example, if you have been involved in an accident that caused personal injury, the solicitor will need to know:
- All the facts surrounding the accident
- All of the injuries you suffered as a result of the accident
- All of the expenses which the accident caused you to incur
If your accident occurred in the workplace, you will need to explain:
- What you were doing at the time of the accident
- Who was in charge when the accident took place
- Who witnessed the accident
If your accident was a road traffic accident, you will need to describe clearly:
- Where you were coming from or going to
- What the weather conditions were like
- What was the sequence of events leading up to the accident
- Whether you were wearing a seat-belt at the time of the accident
- What markings and signs were on the road
- Who was the investigating Garda
- What were the names and addresses of any witnesses
Personal injury details
When describing your injuries, start with your sensations and feelings at the time of and immediately after the accident. Then explain whether, when and how you went to hospital.
Describe all injuries that you suffered, whether they were physical, psychological or emotional, and all the symptoms, including sleep-loss and nightmares. List all of the doctors, hospitals, physiotherapists and counsellors (if any) that you attended after the accident.
If you already had injuries before the accident, you must inform your solicitor of the details. Describe all of the treatments and medications you received as a result of the accident and outline what your doctor thinks might be the long-term effects of your injuries.
Calculate any loss of earnings because you could not go to work and keep a record of medical expenses like medication costs and doctors' bills. You should also include related expenses such as bus and taxi-fares if you are unable to drive as a result of the accident.
Other types of claim
Other types of claims need similar attention to detail in describing what exactly happened. In a defamation case, it will be necessary to relate how your reputation or good name has suffered. In a land case, a detailed description of the history of the land in question and how the dispute arose will be necessary.
How to contact a solicitor
People normally choose a particular solicitor because of a personal recommendation, because the solicitor's office is in their area or because they saw an advertisement.
It is usual to first telephone for an appointment with a solicitor. In some family situations, it may be necessary to consider separate legal representation for each spouse or partner.
The Law Society is the educational, representative and regulatory body of the solicitors' profession in Ireland.
You can search the directory of solicitors firms maintained by the Law Society.