He who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client. This chapter is not written in disregard of that prudent aphorism. Its object is merely to provide surveyors with some background knowledge on points of law that often affect them or their clients, to alert them to points to guard against. It is not intended to be a substitute for proper legal advice when specific problems arise. The surveyor should then consult his solicitor or advise the client to consult his. If advice on the law is given, then unless the surveyor is sure of his ground he should check it with his own solicitor and confirm or correct it in writing to the client. The surveyor should in each such case consider giving the advice with an express disclaimer of responsibility. Coming from a lawyer, advice to use lawyers whenever possible may be viewed with scepticism. But it is given secure in the knowledge that it will continue to be widely disregarded and thus much business for lawyers will continue to be generated. Neglected legal problems almost always turn into bigger and probably litigious legal problems. Yet litigation is extremely expensive and unless the case is fairly simple and straightforward the costs often make it unworthwhile unless the sum involved is well over about £25 000 (at present money values), and even then the relationship of costs to the amount at stake and the prospects of success have to be carefully watched throughout. Because of the unjust rules of legal costs taxation, the successful litigant only recovers about a half to three-quarters of his actual costs of litigation from the other party. The rest has to come out of the damages. Hence the importance of insurance of all possible liabilities and losses, including fees recovery.
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