Thank you. You do not officially need a solicitor but if your claim is for more than £10k it will not go to the small claims court which means that there is a risk if you lose that you will be responsible for the other side’s legal fees. So it may pay to use a solicitor to ensure you have a strong case and do the right things to reduce that risk. Similarly you do not need a solicitor to send them a letter before you claim but it can help to show you re taking it seriously and taking formal legal advice to try and twist their arm a bit
You will not be able to take this to a tribunal if it was work you did as a consultant and not under a contract of employment (.e. you were working as an independent contractor under a contract for service).
As to what you need to do, whenever a dispute arises over money owed by one party to another, the debtor can be pursued through the civil courts for recovery of the debt. As legal action should always be seen as a last resort, there are certain actions that should be taken initially to try and resolve this matter informally and without having to involve the courts. It is recommended that the process follows these steps:
1. Reminder letter – if no reminders have been sent yet, one should be sent first to allow the debtor to voluntarily pay what is due.
2. Letter before action – if informal reminders have been sent but these have been ignored, the debtor must be sent a formal letter asking them to repay the debt, or at least make arrangements for its repayment, within a specified period of time. A reasonable period to demand a response by would be 10 days. They should be advised that if they fail to do contact you in order to resolve this matter, formal legal proceedings will be commenced to recover the debt. This letter serves as a ‘final warning’ and gives the other side the opportunity to resolve this matter without the need for legal action.
3. If you wish to go down the legal route instead of a statutory demand, a claim can be commenced online by going to www.moneyclaim.gov.uk. Once the claim form is completed it will be sent to the debtor and they will have a limited time to defend it. If they are aware legal proceedings have commenced it could also prompt them to reconsider their position and perhaps force them to contact you to try and resolve this.
Whatever correspondence is sent, it is always advisable to keep copies and use recorded delivery so that there is proof of delivery and a paper trail. The court may need to refer to these if it gets that far.