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Help your lawyer help you!

By Peter Johnston, Tuesday, 16 August, 2011, ,

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In trying to achieve greater efficiency dealing with thousands of claims, the Waitangi Tribunal long ago became a legal forum.  Given the complexity of the issues and the process the involvement of legal counsel has become essential.

Lawyers engaged in the Waitangi Tribunal process should be approved as providers by the Legal Services Agency.  You should choose someone with the necessary experience to assist you, and capacity to undertake the many technical aspects of presenting and negotiating claims.

If you are considering instructing, or have instructed, a lawyer to act on behalf of your Treaty claim, there are several things you can do to help your lawyer to help you:

Give clear and concise instructions.  Explain your issues and goals to your lawyer to enable them to advise you.  Your lawyer cannot achieve your desired results if they do not know what it is you want them to do.

Provide your lawyer with all information relevant to your Treaty claim.  This will enable them to progress your claim within the appropriate inquiry district(s).

Keep your lawyer informed.  To help you properly your lawyer needs to have the full picture.  Make sure you tell them about any relevant developments and changes affecting you and your claimant group, especially if it might affect how the claim is progressed.

Quickly deal with any tasks and documents your lawyer gives you.  This will enable them to progress matters efficiently.  Furthermore, the nature of the process means that your urgent instructions may be required.  Your lawyer will need your help to protect your interests and progress your claim.

Keep your lawyer up-to-date with your contact details and the best way to contact you.  Inform them immediately if there are any changes.  Your lawyer cannot advise or assist you if they cannot contact you!

Ask questions.  If you do not fully understand something it could be important that your lawyer knows this.

Discuss costs.  Most Treaty claims are funded by the Legal Services Agency and claimants are not usually liable to pay the costs back.  You should discuss any queries or concerns you have with your lawyer.

Try to make yourself reasonably available for phone calls and meetings.  While engaging a lawyer should reduce your workload, claimants will still need to be involved in many tasks, many of which will have deadlines.

Remember, your lawyer is there to help and advise you!  However, lawyers will need your help so they can assist you achieve the best possible results from your Treaty claim.

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