New joint guidance for lawyers issued by the Law Society, the Bar Council and the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives has stressed the need for a “courteous approach” when dealing with litigants in person.
Lawyers should beware of making assumptions about the validity of a person’s case if they do not have legal representation, the guidance states, and they should be careful to avoid potentially confusing terminology.
“You should take care to communicate clearly and to avoid any technical language or legal jargon, or to explain jargon where it cannot be avoided: a LiP who is already feeling at a disadvantage may be further intimidated and antagonised by the use of such language.”
Letters to litigants in person sent on behalf of a client should be brief and to the point it continues, and they should avoid “inflammatory words or phrases that suggest or cause a dispute where there is none, or inflame a dispute.”
However, lawyers are still entitled to fully represent their clients in court and doing so does not constitute taking unfair advantage of an opposing unrepresented litigant. In addition, lawyers are not required to tolerate “unacceptable behaviour” from litigants in person.