Finding the right solicitor can be a daunting task when you need legal advice. We recommend using a reputable private practice such as Martyn Prowel Gartsides solicitors for expert legal advice.
This article details the most important things to consider before you partner with a solicitor.
Understanding the Role of a Solicitor
Defining the Profession
A solicitor is a qualified legal professional whose role is to provide legal advice to their clients, and represent their legal interests. You would hire a solicitor if you need help with a legal matter which you are not equipped to solve.
In this case, a solicitor would offer legal services such as help with legal documents and legal representation where necessary.
There are several differences between what solicitors do compared to barristers, legal executives or paralegals. Here is a breakdown of each role for clarification:
- Barristers: Barristers have broad legal knowledge and training. They represent clients by putting legal arguments to the judge and jury. Only barristers and qualified solicitor advocates may represent individuals in higher courts.
- Legal Executives: The role of legal executives is largely based within the legal office, although they can later qualify to become a solicitor. Their main difference from a solicitor is that they usually practise a narrower area of the law.
- Paralegals: Paralegals assist lawyers with administrative tasks and sometimes have some legal training. They help lawyers to prepare for court work and handle documents and clients. It is common for graduates to work in this role before they become trainee solicitors.
Now that you know the difference between those in the legal profession, let’s further explore what factors you should think about before hiring a solicitor.
The Significance of Firm Size
Big Firms: Advantages
- Resources and Specialization: Large firms tend to have access to extensive resources, including access to expert witnesses, legal research tools, and an abundance of legal specialists specialised in various areas. This can be particularly
advantageous when handling complex legal cases that require specific knowledge or legal expertise.
- Reputation and Influence: Larger firms tend to enjoy established reputations that can give your case credibility, as well as influence within the legal system that can work as an advantage for your case.
- Comprehensive Services: Large firms can provide comprehensive legal services with multiple solicitors who specialise in specific areas, making it simpler to address multifaceted legal issues under one roof.
- Advanced Infrastructure: These companies may possess cutting-edge technological infrastructures for case management that will help optimise efficiency and track your case more closely.
- Less Personalised Attention: With large firms, clients may feel less connected with them personally compared to smaller ones; your case might not receive as much individual focus as might otherwise be seen as in smaller practices, leaving an impression of being just another client in an overcrowded environment.
- Cost Concerns: Larger firms tend to incur greater overhead expenses and as such can charge higher fees, making them less accessible for those struggling to pay for legal help.
- Potential for Over-Delegation: Your case could be handled by junior solicitors or paralegals instead of experienced solicitors in less complex matters, which is something to keep an eye out for.
- Bureaucracy and Slow Decision-Making: Larger organisations may have more bureaucratic procedures and slower decision-making processes that delay their handling of your case.
Small Firms: Advantages
- Personalised Service: Smaller firms often receive praise for offering more personalised and attentive service to their clients, leading them to have a deeper understanding of your case as well as more tailored legal strategies.
- Access and Communication: With smaller firms typically hosting fewer clients, solicitors may be more accessible and responsive, making it easier for them to keep in direct and regular contact. This fosters more collaborative relationships.
- Cost-Effectiveness: Smaller firms typically have lower overhead costs, leading to more cost-effective legal fees for clients with tight legal budgets and smaller firms can be an especially helpful resource in this respect.
- Familiarity with Local Legal Systems: Smaller firms serving specific regions or communities tend to possess a keen grasp on their local legal environment, providing an edge when handling regional-specific legal issues.
- Flexible and Adaptable Solutions: Smaller firms often offer more adaptability in terms of legal strategies and decision-making processes, enabling them to rapidly adapt to changes in a case or client needs more quickly.
- Limited Resources: Smaller firms may lack the extensive resources of larger ones, including access to an array of specialised experts or advanced legal research tools that could prove essential when handling highly complex cases requiring special knowledge. This could prove costly in court proceedings.
- Limitations on Specialisation: While smaller firms may specialise in certain areas of law, they may not provide clients with as wide a selection of legal services and expertise. This could require clients to seek additional specialists elsewhere.
- Scalability Issues: For larger, more complex legal cases that span multiple legal jurisdictions, smaller practices can struggle with resource allocation and scaling their services accordingly.
- Reputation and Influence: Smaller firms can lack the same influence or reputation of larger ones, which may hinder negotiations and legal proceedings.
The need to hire a solicitor from a local law firm has been significantly reduced by the developments in modern technology. Here are some of the reasons you are not confined to a local practice any longer and how that could benefit you:
Digital Communication: Email, video conferencing (e.g. Zoom/Skype), and instant messaging have made it possible to effectively connect with solicitors no matter their geographic location. You can engage in meetings and receive advice without needing to meet in person.
Electronic Document Management: With DocuSign’s ability to transmit, receive, and sign documents electronically (via platforms like DocuSign), the need for physical document exchanges has been eliminated, greatly streamlining processes that would otherwise require meetings or postage.
Online Research and Resources: Modern solicitors have access to an abundance of legal databases and resources online, enabling them to stay abreast of legal developments irrespective of their physical location.
Flexibility and Convenience: With technology at our fingertips, choosing a solicitor based on expertise, reputation and compatibility instead of proximity is now easier and more tailored legal service can be provided to us.
Cost-Effectiveness: Working with an out-of-state solicitor might be more cost-effective if local solicitors charge higher rates, thanks to technology’s ability to open up more affordable pricing options beyond local markets.
Online Dispute Resolution and E-filing: Nowadays, legal processes like dispute resolution and court filings can now be completed online, eliminating the need for physical presence of solicitors in each jurisdiction.
Specialisation and Expertise
When to Hire a Generalist Solicitor:
Common Legal Matters: Generalist solicitors are ideal for common legal issues like routine contracts, wills and estates administration, real estate transactions and minor civil disputes which don’t require highly specialised knowledge.
Cost Considerations: Generalist solicitors often charge lower fees than specialists, making them a more budget-friendly solution while still providing adequate legal representation.
Initial Consultation: When in doubt about the complexity of your legal issue, consult a generalist solicitor for an initial consultation. They can assess your situation and refer you to an expert if necessary.
Multiple Legal Issues: For legal issues that do not fit neatly into any one specialised category, generalist lawyers offer one-stop solutions for your legal needs.
When to Hire a Specialist Solicitor:
Complex or Niche Areas: Sophisticated solicitors possess in-depth knowledge and experience in specific, complex or niche areas of law such as intellectual property, medical malpractice or immigration. If your legal issue falls into one of these categories (e.g. intellectual property protection, medical malpractice claims or immigration), having access to one is absolutely crucial.
High Stakes Legal Issues: For matters with potentially significant repercussions such as criminal defence, major litigation or large commercial transactions that carry significant legal ramifications, hiring an expert is often required to navigate complex regulations and laws successfully.
Change in Laws and Regulations: For issues concerning changing laws or regulations, having access to an expert who stays abreast of developments is vitally important. Examples may include tax law, environmental regulations, and technology-related matters.
Legal Precedent and Strategy: If your case requires an innovative or precedent-driven legal strategy, or relies heavily on prior court cases for guidance, an expert in that field is best equipped to identify and execute the best approach.
Industry-Specific Knowledge: Certain legal issues are closely connected to specific industries. If you’re involved in a construction dispute, hiring a solicitor with experience in construction law could prove invaluable.
Region and Jurisdiction Specifics: When laws differ significantly by region or jurisdiction, having access to an expert with in-depth knowledge of local regulations is of critical importance.
Complex Documentation: Matters that involve complex documentation, such as patents, contracts, or regulatory compliance may require the skill and experience of a specialist to navigate successfully.
Legal Accreditations in UK Law
Here are some of the accreditations to look out for when hiring a solicitor. These are indications that a solicitor may be highly qualified and reputable.
Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) Accreditation:
Meaning: An SRA accreditation is a prestigious accolade granted by the Solicitors Regulation Authority in England and Wales to recognize solicitors who have achieved high professional standards, possess specialised knowledge and possess expertise in one particular area of UK law such as family, immigration or commercial.
Importance: Consulting an SRA-accredited solicitor ensures you of their extensive qualifications and proven ability in the area of law pertinent to your case.
Law Society Accreditations
Meaning: In the UK, The Law Society offers several accreditations such as CQS (Conveyancing Quality Scheme) and Lexcel (for excellence in legal practice management). These distinctions highlight a solicitor’s dedication to providing high-quality legal services across various practice areas including conveyancing, personal injury litigation and more.
Importance: Solicitors with Law Society accreditations demonstrate their dedication to upholding high standards and providing outstanding legal service tailored to UK law, which serves as an indicator of their competence.
Legal Memberships in UK Law
Here are some of the memberships that solicitors may have. These show that a solicitor is highly dedicated to providing expert legal advice and representation to their clients.
Law Society Membership
Meaning: Membership in the Law Society of England and Wales is a mark of distinction that shows commitment to professional development, ethical conduct and adhering to UK legal standards.
Importance: Membership in the Law Society demonstrates commitment to upholding ethical and professional standards in their legal practice.
Chamber of Commerce Memberships
Meaning: Solicitors belonging to local or national chambers of commerce in the UK often enjoy strong ties to its business community, which can prove especially valuable when seeking legal advice on business-related matters that fall under UK law.
Importance: Chamber of Commerce membership indicates a solicitor possesses an
in-depth knowledge of UK business dynamics, making them capable of offering reliable legal advice within the context of UK commercial and corporate law.
Legal Aid Agency Approval
Meaning: UK solicitors approved by the Legal Aid Agency are qualified to offer legal aid services, making them eligible to handle cases funded through legal aid funding – an essential aspect of UK law.
Importance: For UK legal aid recipients who require legal aid assistance or have cases funded through legal aid, finding an approved solicitor ensures you can access government-funded legal support – making this decision essential when facing certain matters.
As this article has shown, there are many factors to consider when looking for a solicitor. It can be easy to become overwhelmed, especially if you’re dealing with personal issues related to legal action.
The most important thing is that the solicitor communicates clearly when giving legal advice, has a professional approach to the problem at hand and seems decisive to act on your behalf.