This article is about how to put together a file that a solicitor can use efficiently. It is important to give your solicitor a good account of the problem as soon as possible. You can help your solicitor and yourself by sending him a proper file, because a carefully compiled file allows your solicitor to work faster, which saves you money. Moreover: a well-composed file reduces the chances of mistakes.
These days, we prefer to work without paper. In principle, we only accept PDF documents.
Efficient is: not too big!
A proper pdf document is not too big. If your pdf is more than a few megabytes in size, something is probably wrong. Find an online service that allows you to shrink the file (for example, this service). Then download the result, because that is the document you need to send to us.
A proper pdf document contains searchable text. If you don’t know what that is, open a pdf document and try searching for a particular word (in many programmes using Ctrl-F). If your pdf reader cannot find any words, the text in it needs to be recognised. Find an online service that recognises the text in the file (OCR – Optical Character Recognition) (e.g. this service). Be careful to choose the right language, i.e. the language in which the document is written. Then download the result, as that is the document you need to send to us.
Make sure the pdf files have no restrictions of any kind (with or without passwords). Several services are available online to remove passwords or print restrictions from pdf files.
Give proper names: employment contracts
If it is employment law, you will have one or more employment contracts. Save these under the name Employment Contract 01-08-2024.pdf, so the word employment contract, then a space, and then the date the contract was signed.
Give proper names: pay slips
Save pay slips in one file in date order (oldest first and newest last). Name the file Pay slips.pdf. Don’t know how to merge multiple pdf files? Find an online service that lets you merge multiple pdf files (e.g. this service). Then download the result, as this is the document you need to send to us.
Give proper names: rental agreements
If rental law is involved, you will have one or more rental contracts. Save such contract under the name Rental contract 01-08-2024.pdf, so the word rental contract, then a space, and then the date the contract was signed.
Give proper names: Emails
If you want to send emails along as evidence, print them as PDFs. Make sure each e-mail conversation or thread is one file. Make sure everything is readable properly and do not save many unnecessary pages of footers. If necessary, copy and paste emails into Word or Google Docs to remove unnecessary parts and save the result as a pdf. Do not remove content text or information about addressees, date and time, etc. All you should remove are those large pieces of text that often appear under emails about confidentiality etc. Save each conversation with the name 24-08-01 E-mails between A and B.pdf, where 24-08-01 is the date of the first e-mail message.
Give proper names: other documents
Save other documents with the name 24-08-01 Payslip.pdf, where 24-08-01 is the date of the payslip or Bank statements.pdf. You start with the date in reverse order if at all possible, but for documents where this does not make sense, such as payslips, bank statements, photos, etc., do not do so. Are you sending a subpoena? Save it as 24-08-01 Subpoena.pdf, where 24-08-01 is the date the subpoena was served. The same way you can name other legal documents or documents you may have received from a bailiff or from administrative bodies.
When you send a file to your solicitor, you don’t only send documents that the solicitor needs to understand your problem, but also documents to know who you are and whether you qualify for subsidised legal aid or a discount on the standard fee. Make sure the solicitor can see at a glance which documents relate to your problem and which are needed to establish the relationship between you and the solicitor. You can do this by putting them in separate folders that you then separately compress into zip files. You can also do it by sending two different e-mails to your solicitor: one with the files important to your problem and one with documents that the solicitor needs to properly record the agreement with you.
Do you also want to use Whatsapp chats or other communications? Then read this article to know how to efficiently reproduce such communications.
Sound and video
Do you want to use sound or video as evidence? Then make sure you send only the part that is important. You cannot expect a solicitor and a judge to listen or watch a half-hour-long conversation just because something important is said for a few minutes. Keep the whole file, of course, but send the solicitor (initially) only the part or parts that are really important. Also make sure you have a transcript of what is said. There are proper services available on the internet these days for converting spoken word into text. You still need to edit the result by clarifying who said what and making corrections. Send the result as a PDF document and make it clear in the name of the file which video or audio file it belongs to.