From employment problems to personal injury, divorce to conveyancing, most Brits require the services of a solicitor at some point in their lives. But how do you know you've found one that's trustworthy? Here are a few pointers on finding the right person for the job.
What do you need?
With the law covering such wide and varied subject matter, many solicitors specialise in certain areas, whether that be family law, personal injury or problems at work. With this in mind, it's best to look for a specialist in your required area to ensure that your solicitor has a complete and thorough knowledge of the subject.
Where to start
You may be tempted to pay a visit to your nearest local solicitor, but it's always worth checking others that might suit your needs better. By using the Law Society's find a solicitor database, you can search your area and apply filters according to which areas of law they practice, whether they are members of an accreditation scheme, and even whether they have wheelchair access or speak other languages. Both the Law Society and the Solicitors Regulation Authority also run Lexcel quality assurance accreditation schemes, which will show you which scheme members have special competence in a particular area of law, so you can begin to narrow down your choices.
Many solicitors will offer a free or at least cheap interview to discuss the basics of your particular problem. To take full advantage, you'll need to be well prepared. Identification is a standard requirement, and it is important that you take full details of your issue, including any relevant paperwork you may have, and have a list of the points you want to cover so that you can ensure you've asked everything you need to know. It is also very important to find out exactly how fees and costs are charged and any conditions that may apply to those charges. Solicitors are obliged by law to give you a written estimate, and if the fees look likely to change during the course of your case, you are well within your rights to ask for a revised estimate. If they're not happy to do this, it's probably wise to steer clear.
Also consider your personal rapport with the solicitor. Legal problems can be stressful, and in many cases emotive issues, so it's important that you get on with your representative and feel comfortable with discussing such matters with them.
What if there's a problem?
When paying a solicitor, you have the right to clear advice and quality of service. If you feel that they have failed to do what was agreed, increased charges without explanation or has been unnecessarily slow in responding to queries or issues, you have a right to complain. Ideally you should raise any issues with your solicitor directly and allow them time to respond. If there is no resolution, however, you may want to take things further. If your solicitor is regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, there is a complaints procedure in place to help you. Alternatively, contact the Legal Ombudsman, which aims to help resolve complaints and issues.
Have you recently had cause to employ a solicitor? What advice would you give to others when choosing the right person for the job? Leave your comments below...