| Financial services
Most of us need to find a lawyer at some point for things such as writing a Will or moving home – but how do you choose the right one for you?
If you are involved in anything from making a Will to getting a divorce, buying a house or planning your finances, finding a good lawyer can make it considerably easier.
But how do you find the right lawyer to help you? And where should you start? Here are five steps you can take.
1. Look for a lawyer with the right know-how
Most lawyers have a particular area of expertise, so consider what you need.
For example, if you’re going through a divorce or need a separation agreement, you need a lawyer with family law experience.
If you’re working out what to do with your estate – that’s what you own, including your home and money – you may need someone with inheritance and tax planning expertise.
Perhaps you need to know what to do with a business you own – in which case a lawyer with experience in succession planning and financial advice would be more suitable.
2. Find a lawyer you like
Make sure you meet any lawyer you are thinking of hiring. Do you get on? And will it be them you’re dealing with or will they pass you on to a more junior colleague after that first meeting?
You need to be really comfortable with the person you’re dealing with on a day-to-day basis, especially when you’re talking about sensitive issues.
3. Choose one that keeps in touch
Will they keep in touch regularly and in a way that works for you? It can be frustrating to have to keep chasing up a lawyer for information or an update – or to find out how much they plan to charge you.
How, when and how often will they contact you?
If they are slow to respond when you first approach them, that might show you how they normally work. If your instinct tells you it isn’t the way you want things, they are probably not for you.
4. Find out how much it will cost
Legal costs are usually charged by the hour and different lawyers charge varying fees – even within the same law firm. A senior lawyer usually costs much more than a trainee, for example.
Some firms will offer an initial 30-minute consultation for free or for a fixed fee, after which they can give you a better idea of what the work will cost based on your individual requirements. There might also be tasks such as Will-writing that can be done on a fixed cost basis, with hourly rates only charged past a certain point.
Ask for full details so that you’re clear on charging structures, payment schedules, and all the costs involved before committing to anything.
5. Check them out: how do you know if your lawyer is reputable?
This is a really important one. Be sure your lawyer is accredited by the Law Society, the Law Society of Scotland or the Law Society of Northern Ireland. You can check this online on their websites or get someone you trust to do it for you.
The Law Society awards accreditations to those legal practices and solicitors who meet the highest standards of technical expertise and client service. Not only are they good at what they do, they demonstrate care and a personal approach as well as having legal knowledge.
You can check for the Law Society kitemark on your lawyer’s website or ask to see written confirmation of membership or accreditation.
All solicitors must abide by a code of conduct, which in England and Wales is maintained by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
Using a qualified lawyer means you can ensure your wishes are carried out properly. It can also make life much easier for your loved ones, too.
Can I get free legal advice?
Citizens Advice can offer free information and guidance on a range of legal issues and their advisers can help you over the phone, online or in person if you’re struggling with where to start.
For certain issues, you might still need the services of a professional lawyer. If you’re concerned about legal costs or want help finding representation Citizens Advice can also advise you on what sort of legal help you might be entitled to, including legal aid. Alternatively, you could contact the Law Centres Network which operates a number of not-for-profit law centres that work within communities.
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