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Before this article delves into the different sections of dealing with a Solicitor or finding a Solicitor, it is first important to understand the meaning of a Solicitor. A Solicitor is a qualified lawyer who prepares legal documents and represents a client’s legal interests. A Solicitor provides legal advice in specialized areas of law while acting for the clients like individuals, businesses, and other organizations. This article further explains the type of Solicitor a client will require, where can a client find a Solicitor, who regulates Solicitors, their costs, and other aspects related to hiring a Solicitor.

Which type of lawyer do I need?

When a client requires legal advice and he doesn’t know to whom to contact, it can be very challenging. The client might not be aware as to what type of legal advice he needs, the associated cost, and which lawyer to contact. Therefore, finding and choosing a lawyer as per your need and requirements is not only of paramount importance but also necessary to get the best result and appropriate legal advice. There are 3 types of lawyers to help a client in resolving their legal issues:

  • Solicitor

Solicitors are generally the first point of contact when a client is looking for expert legal advice and legal support. They deal with your case from the initial stage starting with paperwork to drafting or writing documents, letters, or other agreements. Where the client is having a dispute with the other party, the Solicitors can also help in negotiating terms of the settlement. Where there is no settlement between the parties and the case is brought up before the court, the Solicitor helps in finding a Barrister to represent the client’s case.

  • Barrister

As mentioned above, Solicitor hires or engages Barristers to work for the client when the case is brought before the court. The barrister represents the client’s interests in the court by presenting arguments to support the client’s case.

  • Legal Executive

They practice only in specific areas of law like conveyancing etc. They are similar to Solicitors, however, qualified to deal in certain areas only. They are very experienced and handle simple cases. Where the case is complex, they often direct the client to a Solicitor.

Where to look for a solicitor?

There are different sources available when it comes to finding a Solicitor. 

  • The Law Society register or database provides complete information about the individuals and the law firms regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). The client can check whether an individual is a Solicitor or not, their place of work, practice area, and the languages they speak. The client can also find the contact details of Solicitors.
  • The Citizens Advice Bureau or Local law centers are well associated with local legal practitioners and will help in recommending a Solicitor specializing in the law area in which the client is seeking advice.
  • There are online legal directories or websites which rank the Solicitors and law firms as per their level of experience and expertise in particular areas of law.
  • One can opt to ask near ones like family members or friends who have previously engaged a Solicitor to handle legal issues in similar areas of law. This kind of provides an assurance from someone’s experience whether to hire such Solicitor or not.

How are solicitors regulated?

Solicitors or law firms are regulated by SRA. The register provides the list of individuals or law firms regulated by SRA, whether any law firm is regulated by SRA or not, the list of law firms that are closed, and the individuals who are prohibited to practice as a solicitor. By regulating Solicitors and law firms, it aims to safeguard the client’s interests from any kind of fraud, dishonesty, or misconduct. It monitors and ensures that a high standard of work is delivered by the Solicitors and the law firms.

The Code of Conduct practice is already in place for the law firms or individuals which are regulated by the SRA. Such practice places a positive duty on solicitors to carry out work within the interest of the clients. Where a code of conduct is breached by an individual or the law firm, SRA may issue a warning against that individual or immediately shut down the law firm.

How much does legal advice cost?

Taking legal action is not easy as it involves cost. When a client first goes to the lawyer to discuss the legal issue, most lawyers don’t charge, however, some do charge consultation fees as well. Therefore, the client can always ask the lawyer about their fees for the first appointment. There are a number of factors like the complexity of the case, the area of law, etc. on which the cost of legal advice depends. 

Where cases reach the court, the client has to consider an “adverse costs order” in case the client loses the case. This calls for paying a large amount of money like the legal costs of the other party. The lawyer will advise the client of such risk at the first stage itself and then the client can decide if he wishes to take his case further.

Also, where the client doesn’t have money to pay upfront, the lawyers mostly take nominal fees in case the client wishes to raise funds from other resources like crowdfunding, etc.

What you should expect from a solicitor?

Where the solicitor or the law firm is regulated by the SRA, the client should expect to receive each and every piece of information to make a well-informed decision about the services the client needs. The Solicitor has to tell the client about the cost of legal services and how that cost will be calculated. The client should be given a clear understanding of this at the end of the transaction or whenever the client requests during the transaction. While receiving legal advice and services from solicitors, the client’s interests should be put at first and any information received during the transaction shall be dealt with confidentiality. The client should be informed of his right to make a complaint to the firm itself or to the Legal Ombudsman, where anything goes wrong. The client should know that where the solicitor or the firm doesn’t meet standards, the SRA takes action against them.

What does “instructing solicitor” mean?

Where an individual has decided to hire a solicitor to obtain legal advice or services, the individual is required to instruct a Solicitor to act on their behalf. This typically means an official representation of a client by the Solicitor. The Solicitor sends a retainer or a client care letter to the client at the starting of the case and documents details of the contract between them, the work required to be completed, and the cost for providing legal advice. Once both the parties (Solicitor and the client) agree in writing, the Solicitor is authorized to have been instructed by the client. Only one Solicitor(s) can be instructed at one time for a particular case. 

After the client has been instructed, it is the duty of the Solicitor to provide appropriate legal advice to the issue. The client also gives the ongoing instructions to the Solicitors while the case proceeds. The Solicitors consider those instructions and act accordingly as long as such instructions are both legal and within the rules of the Code of Conduct.

The contract with your solicitor

The Law Society has set out certain requirements which must be complied with in a retainer or client care agreement. The requirements of paramount importance are mentioning the qualifications of the Solicitor who is going to work on the client’s case, the hourly rate which will apply, approximation of overall cost, and procedure detailing out how to raise a complaint. Where any changes are likely to happen in the estimated cost during the continuance of the matter, the Solicitor should inform the client and such changes will be mentioned in the contract between the Solicitor and the client.

Can you change the Solicitor at any time?

A client can choose any Solicitor they wishes to engage, however, it is not necessary for the Solicitor to agree to act for him. The client is also entitled to change Solicitor at any time. However, vice-versa is not true which means that the Solicitor has to have a good reason if he wishes to stop acting for the client. A Solicitor will not be entitled to payment if the contract has been terminated wrongfully and he may also be sued for breach of the contract.

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