How to Choose a Good Solicitor or Law Firm
There comes a point in many people’s lives when they need some legal advice. Whether it is a relatively uncomplicated issue, such as buying a house or making a will, or something more complex, like dealing with a criminal case or getting a divorce, you need to find a good solicitor. Understanding the law can be difficult so it is important that you find a solicitor that specialises in the area of law you are dealing with. Knowing where to start in your search for a solicitor can be tricky, especially if you have not had to engage the services of a legal professional before. It is important that you do your research and shop around before you make a final decision.
A good starting point is to ask people you know whether they have used a law firm in the past and if they would recommend it. Personal recommendations can be particularly useful because you may trust the judgement of people you know well over internet reviews or professional recommendations. A friend or family member may be able to give you more insight than you may be able to find elsewhere. You may also be able to get recommendations from a local law centre or from the Citizens Advice Bureau.
The Law Society
If, however, you do not know anyone that has used the services of a law firm or solicitor, there are several guides and organisations that can provide you with a good place to start your search. The Law Society is the official organisation that represents solicitors in England and Wales. Their website has a search engine of law firms and solicitors that allows you to search by firm name, location and the area of law you need assistance with. Using this website can be a good way of forming a list of potential law firms and solicitors before narrowing it down further.
The Chambers Guide
Once you have your initial list of potential solicitors or law firms you will need to find out whether they are good at what they do. But how do you go about finding this information? There are several guides available that can help you to gain a better understanding of the skills and experience of a firm or individual. The most well-known is arguably Chambers & Partners, since 1990 Chambers has published guides to the legal sector based on in-depth, independent research. You can search for a particular lawyer or law firm on the Chambers website and can see a detailed profile. The Chambers has a useful ranking system where law firms and lawyers are ranked in bands from 1 to 6 (1 the best, 6 the worst). This can give you a good idea of the strengths of a particular solicitor or law firm in general and can help you decide whether they would be useful.
Another good place to find out more about a legal professional or law firm is the Legal 500. The Legal 500 reviews the strengths of law firms and, like Chambers, assigns rankings that can help you identify the best individual or organisation for the job. You may also want to look in The Lawyer for more information. The Lawyer is a British magazine for legal professionals and its website has some good information on different law firms. They have in depth guides to legal firms and they also provide their UK 200 – which ranks the leading law firms by turnover. The Lex 100 may also be of some use. It is run by the same company as the Legal 500 and is aimed mainly at students and graduates looking for placements and jobs at law firms. Though it is mainly for students the insight supplied in their law firm guides can be helpful in showing what a firm is really like.
As you narrow down your search it may be helpful to consider what you need from a law firm. Do you need a firm that is based in a location close to your home or office? There is no point choosing a firm hundreds of miles away if you need to go to meetings regularly. If English is not your first language it will be worth checking whether your solicitor can speak your first language or arrange for a translator. Money is another important consideration, charges between firms and individuals will vary so make sure you have found a legal professional who is charging a fee that you can afford. Much like when choosing a tradesman you can get quotes from solicitors about how much they will charge. It is also key that you find a solicitor that you feel comfortable with. Many legal issues can be fairly emotional or personal, like divorce proceedings for example, and you need to feel you can talk to your solicitor frankly and honestly.
Certification & Awards
Finally you can look up the certification of a law firm or solicitor and find out whether they are a part of any ‘quality assured accreditation schemes’. Though accreditation schemes may not be a guarantee of a good quality law firm but it can help you to separate the wheat from the chaff. According to the Law Society all solicitors in private practice must hold a practising certificate that is issued by an independent regulator (the SRA). Some law firms may also have won awards for their work which can be a good indicator of a decent firm. Though the process of finding a good solicitor may seem long and in-depth it can be valuable in the long run. It can not only save you money but can give you good support and advice in what is often a trying time.
To give you an idea of what some of the guides and profiles mentioned in this hub look like there are links below to examples for the law firm Lester Aldridge, a law firm based in the South of England.