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. 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, use this service to find and contact a local specialist solicitor.
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 firms are specialising in just one or two areas of law. 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. You can use our local solicitor search service to view the profiles of specialist lawyers in your area and contact them directly to see how they can help you.
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All solicitors in private practice must hold a practicing 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.
Individual solicitors might also be members of ‘quality-assured accreditation schemes’ that cover a number of legal areas. To join one of these schemes, solicitors must show that they have considerable specialist knowledge and expert skills. Search results using this solicitor search service will show which accreditations are held by different firms. If you cannot find a suitable local firm or you are looking for a specific firm not included in the search results visit the Law Society website.
Choosing a solicitor
You may have preferences relating to the profile of the solicitor that you want to instruct, so you can use this service to compare and assess the skills and experience and view the profiles of specialist solicitors in your area. You can also use this service to read articles, case studies and press releases from different law firms which explain their particular expertise in specific areas of law and how their skills may be appropriate for your legal issue.
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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 type of funding, you will need to narrow your search to firms that do. In the search results on this service, look for the Community Legal Service accreditation for firms who may be able to provide legal aid funded work to you. If you cannot find a suitable firm local to you, visit the Community Legal advice website at http://www.communitylegaladvice.org.uk/ .
Legal Aid is managed by the Legal Services Commission which makes sure that all solicitors firms that offer legal aid meet high quality standards.
About Law Centres
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, staffed by solicitors and barristers who specialise in areas of civil law including employment, housing, discrimination, welfare benefits, education and immigration.
Law Centres are embedded in their communities and answer to committees of local people. They assist vulnerable people when they suffer injustice, educate people about their rights and tackle local problems.
In doing so, they transform people’s lives, helping them to stay in their homes, keep their families together and get into employment or education. Law Centres are members of the Law Centres Federation. http://www.lawcentres.org.uk/
In Yorkshire, there are Law Centres in Bradford, Leeds (Harehills and Chapeltown Law centre), Kirklees (Dewsbury) and Sheffield.
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For certain types of case, including personal injury, your solicitor may be prepared to work on a conditional fee basis, also 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 solicitors 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.
Charges vary between solicitors and will depend upon the expertise and experience of the individual as well as the complexity of the work. 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.
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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 or use this service to see the profiles of local specialist solicitors in your area and get in contact with them.
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.
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 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 have made all your points. Have your notes in front of you and tick off each point as it is covered.
Ask for clarification if anything is asked that you do not understand. At the end of the meeting ask your solicitor to send you a letter after the meeting tom summarise the advice you have been given.
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 later your eligibility for legal aid.
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