Involvement in any legal matter can be very daunting. When that legal matter relates to a family issue, it is understandably even more overwhelming and frightening as it is as personal as it can really get. Choosing the right solicitor becomes a crucial part of somewhat easing the initial and ongoing worries that come with being involved in a legal dispute.
So how do you choose a solicitor?
You may seek recommendations from family and friends because you trust them and feel more comfortable with a professional that has already been endorsed by a familiar figure in your life. Another way of finding a solicitor is to visit the Law Society website.
It is important that you ultimately have trust and confidence in your solicitor
You will need to feel comfortable to instruct your solicitor after telling them what is significant to you in your case. Most solicitors will expect that a prospective client would want to have an initial telephone chat with them before instructing them. This would be your opportunity to gain a sense of whether you would be happy with the solicitor acting for you.
It is important that you ultimately have trust and confidence in your solicitor to do the very best possible for you and that they have the requisite experience, this is likely to be the overriding factor when selecting a solicitor. This is particularly so in Family law cases given these cases can be delicate and your solicitor is likely to need to know some quite personal details about you and your family to work on your case. You will need to feel at ease with your solicitor enough to provide them with this personal information.
It is a good idea to read the biography of the solicitor that you are considering as this will often summarise the sorts of cases that the solicitor has expertise in. Commonly, solicitors have their biographies on their firm’s website. You can also usually find articles that your solicitor has written online.
There are a wide range of legal areas and therefore it is necessary to consider whether you require a specialist solicitor for your particular legal issue. More and more solicitors now have specialist areas of law rather than doing a bit of everything. Even within family law, a lot of solicitors have a specialist area, for example some solicitors will only undertake relationship breakdown and financial cases whereas others may only undertake cases involving children disputes. International Family Law is a niche within Family Law and very few solicitors have expertise in this area. If your case has an international element then you really do require a specialist international family solicitor. You can ask the solicitor you are considering whether they belong to any specialist groups or associations and whether their firm has any relevant professional accreditations.
Legal costs are an important consideration when selecting a solicitor. The solicitor will tell you about their charges at the outset, usually at the first interview. Often solicitors will charge for their time on the basis of an hourly rate and therefore the longer it takes to work on your case, the more the legal costs will be. Hourly rates between solicitors vary depending on a number of factors including their seniority and experience. Therefore if you choose a junior solicitor for your case, their supervising solicitor will have a higher hourly rate and as they are likely to undertake work on your case as well, it is important you understand their rate too. Some solicitors work on the basis of fixed fees. Whilst the legal aid budget has drastically reduced in recent years, legal aid is still available for some areas of Family Law if you meet certain criteria and therefore it is worth finding out if the firm of the solicitor you would like to instruct undertakes legal aid work and whether you might qualify for it.
Another factor that can be relevant to you when choosing a solicitor is location of their offices to your home or to the Court, particularly if there is likely to be quite a few face to face meetings in your case and you find travel difficult. Nowadays however, a lot of solicitors are flexible with this and can make themselves available at alternative venues if needed.
Finally are there any alternatives to instructing a solicitor? Whilst it is legally possible to represent yourself, this brings with it the obvious disadvantages, not least of which is a lack of knowledge and experience which could place you at a disadvantage, particularly if the other party is represented. Whilst, in theory the family Courts should assist unrepresented parties, in practice this has proved to be ineffective and difficult given the other pressures under which the family justice system is working. Some solicitors will provide a limited service to assist and guide you through the process whilst you retain conduct of your own case and some barristers offer a direct access service so that you can instruct them direct without going through a solicitor. However, this service is very limited because barristers may only undertake court preparation and representation.
Posted on January 25, 2018