Need a solicitor
Need a solicitor – FAQs
Some answers to your questions
Leeds Law Society is dedicated to promoting the legal profession and facilitating members of the public with any help that they may need but does not offer legal advice.
Leeds Law Society is an independent local law society and is not part of The Law Society of England and Wales.
Using a solicitor
Most of us need expert legal help at some time in our lives. Some of the most common issues are to do with buying a house, getting a divorce or making a will. But you might also need help if you are setting up home with your partner, starting your own business or organising an elderly person’s finances.
The law can be complicated so it’s important to get the best advice you can. Solicitors are the experts when it comes to the law and how it affects you. So for legal advice that you can rely on, contact a solicitor.
Choosing a solicitor
Finding a list of solicitors in your area is easy using our find a solicitor database or you can contact the national Law Society helpline or website. Call 0870 606 2555 or visit www.lawsociety.org.uk/findasolicitor to start your search, but think carefully about what type of service you need. Here are just some of the issues you should consider:
What sort of legal help do I need?
A firm of solicitors may offer services in a wide range of legal subjects, although more and more individual solicitors are specialising in only one or two subjects. If your usual firm of solicitors cannot help you with all your needs, they will be happy to refer you to another solicitor. Or, if you prefer, they can get the advice of a specialist on your behalf.
How can I be sure they are qualified to help me?
All solicitors in private practice must hold a practising certificate issued by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, the independent regulator (set up by the Law Society) which sets the rules that all solicitors must follow. This guarantees that the solicitor is qualified to practise and has insurance to protect you if anything goes wrong. If you want to be sure, ask to see the certificate (which should be on display in your solicitor’s office) or phone the Solicitors Regulation Authority on 0870 606 2555 to check.
You can also ask your solicitor whether the firm has received any quality awards to prove that they have good standards of practice in place. If the firm has received the ‘Lexcel’ quality award, the national Law Society will be able to confirm this (you can e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 020 7320 5933).
Individual solicitors might also be members of ‘quality-assured accreditation schemes’ that cover a number of legal subjects. To join one of these schemes, solicitors must show that they have considerable specialist knowledge and expert skills. You can find details of solicitors in your area who are members of one of these schemes by visiting the ‘Find a Solicitor’ area of the Law Society website, www.lawsociety.org.uk. You can get more details of particular schemes from the website.
Where is the firm based?
Where a firm is based is obviously an issue of convenience, particularly for elderly, sick or disabled people. Do you need to use a firm that is close to where you live? If so, this will narrow your search. Some solicitors are happy to visit you at home, so if you find travelling difficult, it’s well worth asking about this.
Do they do legal aid work?
If you are on a low income or receiving benefits, you may be eligible for legal aid. You can find this out by contacting your nearest citizens’ advice bureau or law centre. As some solicitors’ firms do legal aid work and some do not, if you are eligible for this kind of funding, you will need to narrow your search to firms that do. You can find solicitors that do legal aid work on the Community Legal Service website at www.clsdirect.org.uk. or call 0845 345 4345.
Legal aid is managed by the Legal Services Commission, which makes sure that all solicitors’ firms that offer legal aid meet high quality standards.
Do they work on a conditional fee basis?
For certain types of case, including personal injury, your solicitor may be prepared to work on a conditional fee basis. This is more commonly known as a ‘no win, no fee’ arrangement. If you win the case, your solicitor’s fees will usually be paid by the other side. If you lose, you do not have to pay your solicitor’s fees. You may be asked to take out an insurance policy to pay for the other side’s costs if you lose. There are various types of conditional fee arrangement, but not all solicitors’ firms take cases on this basis.
Will they be sympathetic?
If you need to see a solicitor about a personal matter, such as a relationship breakdown, you will want to choose someone who makes you feel comfortable. Most solicitors will be sympathetic and understanding if you are distressed, but you may prefer to deal with someone who is the same sex as you. Don’t be afraid to say that this is what you want.
Will they speak my language?
If English is not your first language, you should mention this when you are trying to find a solicitor. If you tell them in good time, a firm can arrange for an interpreter to be present at your meetings.
Making an appointment
Once you have found a suitable firm, you need to make an appointment. Let them know if there’s anyone you need to bring to the meeting with you. Ask if you should bring any documents with you, such as proof of identity or income.
The more preparation you do before the meeting, the more you’ll get out of it. Make a list of the main points you want to make or the questions you want to ask. Get together any paperwork that is relevant and put it in some kind of order so you can refer to it quickly. This will make it quicker and easier for your solicitor to understand your circumstances and give you proper advice.
At the meeting
Check how long the meeting will last so that you don’t suddenly find that ‘time is up’ before you’ve made all your points. Have your notes in front of you, tick off each point as it is covered, and don’t be afraid to ask if anything is said that you do not understand.
Finally, ask your solicitor to send you a letter after the meeting to summarise the advice you’ve been given, and confirm the following details.
- That he or she has taken on the work.
- The name of the person in the firm who will be dealing with your case day to day.
- The amount of time the firm will need to see your case through.
- An estimate of costs and any agreed spending limit.
- Any more information you need to supply.
Solicitors Legal advice, like anything else you buy, costs money, but its value can be enormous. Charges vary between solicitors, and will depend on the expertise and experience of the individual solicitor as well as how complicated the work is. Before making a decision about which firm to use, you may want to ‘shop around’. Decide on what sort of solicitor you need to speak to and get quotes from several. Many solicitors charge little or nothing for a short first interview. It is worth asking. However, price is not the only thing you have to consider. Above all, try to find a solicitor who you are comfortable with and whose advice you feel you understand.
Fixed or hourly rate?
Solicitors don’t always charge a fixed fee for a particular job. The bill will often be worked out on an hourly basis, so the longer it takes, the more it costs. A solicitor must give you a cost estimate at the outset, usually at the first interview.
If an hourly rate is quoted, you may want to agree a fixed spending limit. If the costs look likely to go over this limit your solicitor will contact you to warn you and get your agreement to continue.
Keeping in touch
Once you have appointed a solicitor, they must consult you at every important stage, to check how you want to proceed. Similarly, you need to tell your solicitor about any changes to your personal circumstances which could affect the case. This includes any changes in your financial position which could alter your eligibility for legal aid.
To obtain more information on using solicitors, common legal problems, paying for legal services and other information please click here for the Law Society website.
Find a public notary
The function of notaries is to prepare and certify the execution of legal documents for use nationally and internationally. Visit www.thenotariessociety.org.uk for further information.
Free Legal Advice at The Citizens Advice Bureau
The Citizens Advice service helps people resolve their legal, money and other problems by providing free information and advice from 3,300 locations, and by influencing policymakers. It has trained volunteers who can deal with benefits, debt, employment, housing and legal issues. The national Citizens Advice Bureau contact details are as follows:Web: www.citizensadvice.org.uk
Law Centres specialise in social welfare law which includes: welfare rights; disability rights; immigration and asylum; housing and homelessness; employment rights; community care; and all forms of discrimination. Other areas of work vary according to local need and may include public law, mental health, education rights and young people and children’s rights. Each Law Centre employs solicitors, barristers, legal advisers and community workers.
Law Centres are not-for-profit legal practices providing free legal advice and representation to disadvantaged people.
There are 56 Law Centres in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Go to www.lawcentres.org.uk to find one in your area.
Complaints against solicitors
If you wish to complain about your solicitor you must put your complaint in writing to the Complaints Partner or to the Complaints Manager at the solicitor’s firm where an “in-house” complaints procedure should be followed. If you have a copy of a formal engagement letter or an information sheet provided at the outset of the work that your solicitor undertook, you should refer to this, as it should contain details of their complaints procedure. Keep copies of all the correspondence and allow 14 days for a reply.
If you need advice regarding complaints or if you feel that conciliation will not provide a suitable means of dealing with your complaint, you should contact the Legal Ombudsman, or visit their website www.legalombudsman.org.uk or alternatively write to them at :
PO Box 15870, Tamworth B77 9LE
Tel: 0300 555 0333.