Brief to counsel

Brief to counsel is a summary prepared by a solicitor for a barrister, containing all of the information and documents relevant to the presentation of a case in court. A brief to counsel, at a minimum, contains instructions from the solicitor to counsel regarding the specific work to be undertaken.
A brief will usually be broken down into a specific scope, for example:

  • Brief to advise;
  • Brief to advise on evidence;
  • Brief to settle a document; or
  • Brief to appear at a hearing

To ensure the ease of reference the Law Society of New South Wales recommends that a brief contain the following:

  • An index;
  • Observation on brief
  • Copies of all pleadings
  • Copies of letters seeking and furnishing particulars
  • Copies of interrogatories and answers;
  • The proofs of evidence of the witnesses;
  • A list of documents cross-indexed by referenced to pages in the brief;
  • Copies of all documents to be tendered as evidence;
  • Copies of documents produced on discovery.

A brief should be delivered to counsel as soon as practicable in advance of a hearing and counsel have obligations to accept a delivered brief on a ‘cab rank’ basis. This means that a barrister is obligated to accept a brief so long as:

  • The brief is within a barrister’s “capacity, skill and experience”;
  • The barrister is available; the fee offered for the brief is acceptable for the barrister; and
  • The barrister is not obliged or permitted to refuse the brief under the Uniform Bar Rules.