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Sending and receiving written correspondence

A large volume of written correspondence, by post/DX, fax, and e-mail, is sent and received daily.

All correspondence should be sent by the most appropriate method. With a view to reducing the cost to the Board of postage, all written correspondence between offices of the Board must be by email or other electronic method (eg. through EOS) except for situations where Rules of Court or another legal requirement means that post must be used, e.g. for service of proceedings (where service by post is itself permitted). Where a signature is required a scan of that signature should suffice in the majority of instances.

Applicable to law centres only:

It is the responsibility of the managing solicitor to manage the incoming and outgoing post on a daily basis. The managing solicitor may delegate some of this task to the Reception person, however the managing solicitor must ensure that he or she is opening the post as often as possible (and at least twice a week) and that while they are on leave, the Managing Solicitor Grade II (or acting manager in a smaller law centre) is carrying out this task.

Post and DX                    

DX Exchange

The Board, in common with many other law firms (and other businesses), subscribes to the DX Exchange service operated by DX (Group) plc. DX Exchange is a private postal system. While the Board has the choice of using An Post or DX for its outgoing mail, DX must be used instead of An Post where a DX address is available. Most family mediation centres (other than those co-located with law centres) and a small number of law centres (Kilkenny, Portlaoise, Chancery Street, and Dolphin House) do not use the DX service.

DX addresses for Board offices are available on the Telephone Directory on the LAB Portal. Otherwise, DX addresses may be looked up on the DX website at www.dxdelivery.com

An office should operate two out-trays which should be located in Reception, marked “Post Out” and “DX Out” to ensure post to be sent by An Post and DX are separated and sent separately. Otherwise a letter to be sent or received by DX should be regarded as in all respects the same and equal to a letter sent or received by An Post.

Post and DX                    

DX Exchange

The Board, in common with many other law firms (and other businesses), subscribes to the DX Exchange service operated by DX (Group) plc. DX Exchange is a private postal system. While the Board has the choice of using An Post or DX for its outgoing mail, DX must be used instead of An Post where a DX address is available. Most family mediation centres (other than those co-located with law centres) and a small number of law centres (Kilkenny, Portlaoise, Chancery Street, and Dolphin House) do not use the DX service.

DX addresses for Board offices are available on the Telephone Directory on the LAB Portal. Otherwise, DX addresses may be looked up on the DX website at www.dxdelivery.com

An office should operate two out-trays which should be located in Reception, marked “Post Out” and “DX Out” to ensure post to be sent by An Post and DX are separated and sent separately. Otherwise a letter to be sent or received by DX should be regarded as in all respects the same and equal to a letter sent or received by An Post.

Incoming mail

All offices must have a set of post trays (popularly called “pigeon holes”) in place in the office where staff may pick up their incoming mail. Each solicitor must have their own in tray.

Some offices will have the DX delivered direct; however, many will need to collect their DX from a local collection point which may be a local private solicitor’s office or another business.

An Post mail should arrive direct to the office during the morning, however the time will differ according to local arrangements. When the mail arrives the mail should be dealt with in accordance with Procedure 2.3.

Procedure 2.3 – How to deal with post (Law Centres)

Procedure 2.3 – How to deal with post (Mediation)

If contact is made by either letter or e-mail, it is the Board’s best practice to:-

  • issue an interim response within seven working days of receipt;
  • a substantive response within 15 working days.

Arrangements must be put in place to ensure correspondence does not go unanswered where the staff member to whom the correspondence is addressed is absent from the office. Accordingly, where a solicitor/mediator  is on leave, mail addressed to that solicitor should be given to the managing solicitor/mediator who will give it to the solicitor/mediator dealing with the absent solicitor’s files, or otherwise decide on a course of action. Mail directed to a non-solicitor member of staff may be dealt with by the Reception person. If in doubt as to the appropriate response, the query should be directed to the managing solicitor/mediator.

Procedure 2.3 – How to deal with post (mediation)

  1. Post should be opened daily by the Admin staff.
  2. All envelopes should be opened other than those addressed to a specific person and marked either ‘Personal’ or ‘Addressee Only’ which should be placed directly in the addressee’s tray;
  3. Post, other than the letters referred to above, but including letters marked ‘private and confidential’, should be reviewed by the Admin staff. It is considered that in the normal course this review would involve no more than a cursory glance at each letter to ensure a professional service is being provided.
  4. Following review, letters should be stamped with the date of their receipt and distributed appropriately.
  5. The Admin staff should discuss any issues of concern identified in correspondence with the relevant Mediator or Managing Mediator in order to satisfy himself / herself that a professional service is being provided. If there is a concern about the adequacy or appropriateness of the service he / she should identify those concerns to the Mediator or Managing Mediator and should monitor on a regular basis whether the concerns are being addressed.  If the concerns are not being addressed, the Managing Mediator should be so informed in writing and the concerns must be brought to the attention of the Director, Family Mediation Service.
  6. If correspondence is of the nature of a complaint è Procedure 8.2 should be followed; and
  7. In the event of a Admin staff being out of the office, the post should be opened by another member of staff.

Procedure 2.3 – How to deal with post (Law Centres)

  1. Post should be opened as often as possible by the managing solicitor (at least twice a week).
  2. All envelopes should be opened by the managing solicitor other than those addressed to a specific person and marked either ‘Personal’ or ‘Addressee Only’ which should be placed directly in the addressee’s pigeon hole / post tray;
  3. Post, other than the letters referred to above, but including letters marked ‘private and confidential’, should be reviewed by the managing solicitor. It is considered that in the normal course this review would involve no more than a cursory glance at each letter. The managing solicitor’s concern is to ensure that an appropriate professional service is being provided thus they should be looking out for expressions of client dissatisfaction, allegations by clients of a failure to proactively manage their case or to respond to their contacts, allegations by another solicitor of a failure to respond appropriately or to deal with the case in a professional manner or other material that would give rise to a concern about the service being provided;
  4. Following review, letters should be stamped with the date of their receipt and distributed to the appropriate pigeon holes;
  5. Incoming mail relating to an applicant or client can  be scanned and uploaded to EOS. è Procedure 2.4
  6. The managing solicitor should discuss any issues of concern identified in correspondence with the relevant solicitor or staff member in order to satisfy himself / herself that a professional service is being provided. If the managing solicitor has a concern about the adequacy or appropriateness of the service he / she should identify those concerns to the solicitor and should monitor on a regular basis whether the concerns are being addressed by the solicitor.  If the concerns are not being addressed, the solicitor should be so informed in writing and the concerns must be brought to the attention of the Director of Civil Legal Aid;
  7. In the event that areas of major concern are identified from a review of the post, the managing solicitor should identify those issues to the solicitor in writing and the concerns must be brought to the attention of the Director of Civil Legal Aid immediately;
  8. If correspondence is of the nature of a complaint or a request for a change of solicitor, Procedure 7.3 should be followed; and
  9. In the event of a managing solicitor being out of the office, the post should be opened by another solicitor, or in the absence of another solicitor, another member of staff.

All incoming post relating to applicants or clients must be uploaded to the applicant/client file on EOS. This is so the maximum benefit of EOS can be realised by having all applicant/client related correspondence available electronically in one place.

Procedure 2.4– How to scan incoming post

  1. Incoming mail should be opened according to the procedure in Procedure 2.3
  2. Use your photocopier’s scanning facility to scan the letter in and send it to your email inbox
  3. In Notes, open the email received from the scanner and click the “Upload to EOS” button.
  4. In the dialog box that appears, enter the applicant’s name or file number. Note: If an applicant/client has multiple cases, it is important to upload the correspondence to the correct case.
  5. Enter in a name for the document and choose the correct correspondence type. Note: It is important to give the document a full descriptive name. The name you enter will be the name it is given in the table of contents of a brief to Counsel.
  6. Click the Upload button to upload the email to EOS.

Some law centres may have scanners that work differently to the above or are not photocopier based. The detailed operation of your photocopier/scanner is outside the scope of this Handbook – see its User Manual for details.

There is no need to maintain a register of incoming and outgoing post.  Nor is it necessary to keep a record of non-applicant/client related phone calls.

All outgoing letters, faxes and e-mails from the Board must include the name and contact numbers of the staff member dealing with the correspondence except where the correspondence is inter-parties correspondence to a solicitor.  Letters and faxes must be on the Board’s headed notepaper while emails must include an appropriate signature.

It is a requirement that proceedings must be issued in the name of the law centre, this does not mean that an individual staff member cannot sign correspondence. A clerical officer or law clerk may sign a letter which they are sending on behalf of a solicitor/mediator (if they are authorised by the solicitor/mediator concerned to do so), but must place the letters “p.p.” (per procurationem) before their own signature.

All outgoing letters must include the sender’s name except where the correspondence is inter parties correspondence to a solicitor.

The sign off on a letter sent by a clerical officer or paralegal should be in the format:
 
_______________________
John Smith
Name of Office

The sign off on a letter sent by a solicitor/mediator should be in the format:

_______________________
Jane Jones
Solicitor/Mediator
Name of Office

All correspondence must be written in plain English using only technical and official terminology where absolutely necessary. All letters to applicants/clients should be generated using the case management system  and where a precedent is available it should be used unless a solicitor has determined that it is not appropriate for the particular case. If no precedent is available, the free text letter or blank word document templates should be used, as appropriate. 

The Style Guide is at >Appendix B

It is recognised that in a legal environment, the use of a certain amount of legal terminology will occur, but this should be minimised and explained wherever possible.

All staff should place outgoing mail in the Post Out / DX Out trays in Reception by 4:15pm each afternoon. (This time may be adjusted locally in the event that the DX pickup is before 4:15pm).                                                                     

Mail to be sent by DX should be addressed in the following format:

Montague Court Law Centre  < Name of office or firm
DX 149 < Exchange number
DUBLIN < Exchange name.

Any mail to an applicant or client should be marked PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL.

Mail sent by post to a Republic of Ireland address should use the recipient’s Eircode wherever possible. You can look up the Eircode at www.eircode.ie. The Eircode for every Board office is available on our Telephone Directory.

A copy of all correspondence sent, by whatever medium, should be kept on the client or other appropriate file.

The use of the courier service should only be made in such cases where delivery into the hands of the recipient is of the utmost urgency. The use of the DX, scanners, and fax machines should negate the use of couriers in most instances. A log of use of couriers is kept for checking against invoices, which can then be paid from the local bank account.

A record of use of the courier service should be kept along the following lines:

COURIER RECORD

Courier Company Name:
Telephone No:
Account No:                                                       Password (where applicable):

Month: ____________

Date Time From To Ordered by:

This should be kept on record and may be used where Organisation requires the office to verify that the invoice received from the courier company matches the actual use of couriers by the office.

An economic approach should be taken to the use of photocopying. Where possible, double sided copying should be done. Consideration should also be given to re-using paper where only one side has previously been used, except where client confidentiality reasons arise.  Confidential documents should not be left on the copier.

All inbound correspondence received, and copies of final versions of correspondence sent or other documentation relevant to the case, should be printed and placed on files. They may not be shredded or otherwise disposed of, except on disposal of the file in accordance with the guidelines in >  Chapter 8.

From time to time you may need to print draft versions of documents that may not be appropriate to be placed on a file. Such documentation must be confidentially shredded as it arises. 

Under no circumstances should any documentation with applicant / client details on it be placed in a public waste disposal / rubbish facility. We are under an obligation to keep such client details confidential. This includes any material with names, addresses, telephone numbers, ID numbers, or any other personal details, or any other details of a case, whether ongoing or completed. In the case of such material, the confidential shredding procedure above applies.

If in any doubt as to whether a document should be confidentially shredded or not, consult with the managing solicitor.

Chapter 8 contains procedures for destruction of client files which have been closed for certain periods.

Files may only be sent by (in order of security), Courier or Registered Post.

All correspondence must be placed in properly sealed envelopes.

Staff must be careful with the use of windowed envelopes. The correspondence must be placed in these envelopes carefully and must be checked that our logo or anything else that could identify the Board is not visible.

Procedure 2.5 – Dealing with outgoing mail

  1. Mail to be sent by An Post should be franked using the franking machine. A chart should be displayed on the wall beside the franking machine detailing the current prices. 
  2. Mail to be sent by DX should be stamped with the law centre’s DX Stamp (will typically read “From Legal Aid Board, DX” Number).
  3. Any Private and Confidential mail should be clearly marked.
  4. The mail to be sent by An Post should be brought to the local postbox. If there is a separate postbox for franked mail it should be used.
  5. Mail to be sent by DX may be collected from the law centre. If this is not the case, it should be brought to the local collection point. 

Postage is expensive.  Ensure you weigh and insert the correct amount on the machine.

Franking machines are now installed in all premises and need to be used for all mail to be sent by An Post (other than FREEPOST items).

Franking machines need to be topped up with credit from time to time. Some newer franking machines can be topped up using the system software on the franking machine itself. For others, you must ring the franking machine company. The actual procedure varies from machine to machine, if you are unsure, consult the franking machine user manual, or ask another member of staff.

Applicable to law centres only:

Letters to prisoners
Letters to prisoners must be placed in a sealed envelope marked “Correspondence from solicitor” and then placed in a second envelope with the prison address of the prisoner on it.

Note that following this procedure is no guarantee that post will not be opened by the prison authorities. However, Rule 44(4) of the Prison Rules 2007 provides that:

“A letter sent to a prisoner by a person or body referred to in this Rule shall be given to the prisoner without delay and shall not be examined to any greater extent than is necessary to determine that it is such a letter. If any such letter is to be examined, it shall only be opened in the presence of the prisoner to whom it is addressed.”

Such a “person or body” includes his/her legal advisor.

Law centres should ensure that applicants who are prisoners are aware of the risk of correspondence to and from the law centre being opened by the prison authorities pursuant to the provisions of the Rules and the measures that can be taken to mitigate such risks.

Fax machines

All offices of the Board are provided with a fax machine. Fax machines are available for written correspondence which needs to be received on a same day basis and where email is not available or appropriate. However, email (including scanning letters, documents, correspondence etc) should be preferred over fax wherever possible. Prior to sending any fax, the staff member should consider whether sending the correspondence via email is possible, and where it is possible, use email instead.

The fax cover sheet illustrated on the next page should be filled out appropriately and included with each fax. The design illustrated is the only design of fax cover sheet which it is permitted for offices to use. Offices should maintain a supply of blank copies of the fax cover sheet in a suitable location adjacent to their fax machine:

Standard fax cover sheet for use by all offices