How to choose a solicitor
If you are going to use a solicitor, which one you use is an important matter. It could make a significant financial difference to you.
As with any profession there are some exceptionally good practitioners out there and some who are not so good.
You are used to making choices as a consumer but let me tell you what I would look at if I was looking for a solicitor to represent me. I would divide it up into 3 considerations:
- Location, and
Obviously you want to be represented by someone who knows what they are doing. Sometimes specialization can be a good guide. If someone has decided to specialize in family law or even indeed in family finance then there is a good chance they will have an exceptionally good “feel” for the area. That’s not to say that there are not good generalists out there who do several areas of law; but if you want someone who knows what the latest guidance is from the Family Justice Council for example, a specialist is more likely to know. A specialist will also have a larger and more recent data bank of recent experiences to guide them in considering what will probably happen in your case.
By far the best way of assessing competence however, is to get a recommendation from a friend or someone you know. If you do seek a recommendation do more than just ask someone what their solicitor was like, ask questions such as:
- Did they get a result you were happy with?
- How quickly did they respond to your questions?
- What was the quality of their paperwork like, letters etc?
- How accurate were they with their estimate of how much it would cost you in fees?
Of course you will get a chance to assess a solicitor when you go to meet them. Many firms offer a free half hour consultation. This gives you an opportunity to see how they stack up. Go with some prepared questions. Beware of the person who tells you everything you want to hear.
Generally speaking there is little point in instructing a firm of solicitors who practice a long way away from the court where the case is going to be heard. An exception might be where a firm has been especially recommended or they have particular experience of dealing with your sort of case.
The risk of instructing such a firm is that you will find it more difficult to meet with them to discuss your case and also they will need to charge for travelling to court. They are also less likely to know the practice of the local court and what the local judges are like. The last point is an important factor.
If cost is a significant issue you should see whether there is a firm that will offer you a fixed price service. There is of course a risk that under a fixed price arrangement the solicitor will not feel able to give your case as much attention as he or she would otherwise. On the other hand you will have the certainty that your costs will not go over a certain level.
You should ask a number of questions about costing at your initial meeting. In fact it would probably be easier if you emailed or sent the solicitor your questions before the meeting:
- Who specifically would be dealing with my case on a day to day basis?
- What are your charging rates for the work that will be involved?
- Obviously there are a number of factors but what is the ball-park cost to take the case to the financial dispute resolution hearing stage?
- If I were to use your firm how regularly would I be kept up to date with what the fees owed were?
- How regularly would you require payment?
The next question which arises is: so taking those things into account where should I go to find a solicitor to instruct? Well the best source of information is the internet. Most law firms have websites whether they are large “full service” firms or whether they are “high street” practices. Searching for e.g. “family solicitors in Bristol” would give you a start. Looking at the websites may give you an idea:
- How many lawyers do they have?
- Do they have a specialist family law department?
- Where are their offices?
- How professional does their website look?