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My top 10 client construction law fails

Michael Chesterman
Michael Chesterman November 1, 2018

I am not a lawyer, but here I am, an integral part of Helix Legal.  What am I doing and what can I offer?  

I am working with the Helix team because this is where I believe I can make a real difference for the industry I love.  I spent 22 years working for the industry regulator in Queensland where I did my absolute best to build reform and implement policy that I believed in.  Construction law has a large role to play in building a better industry if utilised effectively and understood.

In my previous life, I was regularly required to obtain legal assistance from external lawyers in the performance of my functions.

The irony in this transformation is not lost on me!

My experience as a consumer of legal services has given me a very clear idea of:

  • the kind of business I do not want to be part of;
  • the multidisciplinary business of the future I am now having a hand in creating.  

Based on my experience I am of the view that there is plenty of scope in the market for substantial improvement in how legal businesses engage with clients, room for them to treat clients with empathy, and always act in an honest, transparent and professional manner.  

Outlined below are my top 10 fails I have experienced as a client over the course of 2 decades in respect of the delivery of construction law services.

Client fails

  1. Initial verbal “overselling” of the prospects of success.
  2. Failure to provide reasonable and realistic prospects of success.
  3. Providing advice without having a comprehensive understanding of all the issues in dispute, usually the result of rushing straight into solutions mode.
  4. Allocating an entirely different team to the file then what was originally promised.  
  5. Providing a “cheap” quote based on projected hourly rates of varied lawyers and delivering a bill entirely different to the quote.
  6. Providing invoicing entirely impossible to reconcile against the original scope of instructions.
  7. A refusal to provide a fixed price for work that was quite obviously easily scoped out in terms of actions and staged pricing.
  8. A failure to provide incidental information of a general nature technically outside the specific brief, but that would have been beneficial in my gaining a better appreciation of the risks involved in pursuing a particular action.
  9. A failure to provide updates so the first I hear of certain work being done is when I get the bill at the end of the month.
  10. Using excessive and unnecessary legal jargon and endless case citations clearly “copied and pasted” in unnecessarily lengthy written advice.

When you have walked a mile in the shoes of your clients it gives a tremendous insight.  There is nothing that makes me more certain Helix is on the right path then the knowledge that these failures represent everything the business aspires not to be and not to do!  The fact that I am not a lawyer and have for decades been a consumer of legal services means I instinctively see things from the perspective of clients.  

Our team brings together a unique mix of lawyers and industry professionals like me, all with a passion and a can-do attitude threaded through our DNA. We take an upfront approach to all advice, communication and billing, with an ultimate goal to guide and support clients in any situation.

Not intended as legal advice. Read full disclaimer.
Michael Chesterman
Michael Chesterman November 1, 2018

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