Permit me to make a sweeping generalisation for just a moment – culturally speaking, British folk tend to be far too polite and therefore not pushy enough.
Now, I think politeness is a very good thing but we ought to learn a little confidence and assertiveness when we’re about to make a purchase, and that goes for:
- a meal out
- buying a car/sofa/new TV
- booking a holiday
- choosing a builder/plumber or indeed a solicitor
I feel it’s important to probe a bit as most people aren’t that forthcoming with their credentials and as I can talk with a little authority on the legal profession I thought I could provide some ideas on how to find a solicitor that suits you and the job you need doing.
First of all here’s my credentials for writing this post – I’ve worked as a solicitor for over 15 years in several very different law firms with many different colleagues. I’ve seen exemplary standards of customer service and some atrocious behaviour that still leaves me feeling angry.
So here’s my top tips –
Just like finding anyone who’s providing a service there’s no substitute for a personal recommendation. If the solicitor has been tried and tested by someone else then the chances are they’ll be alright. Still it’s worth asking a few extra questions before you commit yourself and your money.
It depends on the job
Like anything the amount of checking out you do will depend on the job – conveyancing requires someone competent who works quickly and at a good price, with a family matter such as divorce you definitely need to get on with and trust your solicitor as the working relationship you will have with them is much more personal.
Check them out on the web
Before you even pick up the phone or send an email check out the law firm and the individual solicitor on the internet. The firm’s own website often has profiles of their solicitors and the law society’s website will give you some basic information about when the solicitor qualified and what there specialism is – http://www.lawsociety.org.uk/choosingandusing/findasolicitor.law
Also, there are many accreditation schemes which solicitors can apply to join. To qualify for accreditation the solicitor must pass assessments or exams and this gives an added level of reassurance to you that the solicitor knows what he or she is doing.
For example there are accreditations for Family Law, Personal Injury and also for Wills and Probate solicitors (I’m three quarters of the way through qualifying as a Trust and Estate Practitioner and the exams have really put me through my paces).
The Initial Enquiry
Whether by phone, email or first appointment there needs to be an exchange of information. Obviously you need to let the solicitor know what the job or problem is:
“I need a Will”
“I’m selling my house”
“Can I look after my elderly father’s finances?”
But there should also be a lot of information coming back to you so you can decide whether to use that solicitor or somebody else. In an ideal world the solicitor should volunteer this information without you having to probe but just in case they don’t –
Check if they are a solicitor, how long they have been qualified and what’s their specialism (you may have found this out already on the internet).
- They should give you a clear explanation of the process right from the off and give clear initial advice (if you don’t understand the solicitor on the first contact then it’s unlikely to get any better).
- They should be clear about price – is it a fixed fee or on hourly rates and what is the likely total cost going to be (although with some legal disputes that’s not always possible to gauge to begin with).
Follow up information
Hopefully the solicitor will offer something by way of a follow up. This might be a phone call to see if you want to go ahead, an email or letter with some info and confirmation of cost or a meeting. Again, if this is not volunteered then you should ask unless of course you are completely unimpressed and don’t want to hear from them again.
I hope this will arm you with a plan of action when choosing a solicitor and I’d be interested to hear any other suggestions to add to this list.