Appointing a Good Solicitor
“The power of the lawyer is in the uncertainty of the law.” – Jeremy Bentham
The timing of choosing a solicitor can be really tricky and not conducive to a well thought through strategy. It’s often because a legal issue has arisen out of the blue, or there is a planned transaction such as a building purchase or lease. The lawyers are the last on the list to be considered. Unfortunately, then businesses use either the most recent advert, referral or practical reasons when choosing a solicitor … perhaps the solicitor’s office is near to where they work or live, but does this approach make sense?
We would recommend that you contact a number of companies before appointing a good solicitor. As with any other purchasing decisions, it is worth following a few simple guidelines:
- Take care to know who will be dealing with your work, and make sure you speak to that person, take care you are not being sold to by one person and served by another.
- Ask about costs – fixed price or hourly rates, all solicitors should provide you with a client engagement letter that outlines these prices.
- Does the legal practice provide a free or reduced cost initial interview; they should particularly as part of their ethics set dictates they should advise you if the whole project is unlikely to succeed and that you are wasting your money working with them.
- What tasks will the solicitor or lawyer be doing for you, be clear as to the scope of work and who and how any extensions are agreed.
- What experience they have in that area of law, ideally don’t use the same people you always use, employ someone who has been there and done it in exactly the type of dispute or project you have.
- What else can the firm provide – for example back up if your solicitor is absent. It is useful to have a relationship with a multi-disciplinary practice if your business is complex or has special requirements.
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Standards to look for when appointing a good solicitor
For many areas of law, the Law society has set up accreditation schemes which can be found on their website for any specific area of law. If a solicitor has one of these many marks, it means that they are recognised experts in that area of law, it does not mean that those without a specific mark cannot help you, it may be that they have decided not to apply, but it is a benchmark.
In addition to the Law Society Quality marks, legal firms may have the Lexcel Quality mark which they (the Law Society) state is a firm’s ‘Gold standard’ and covers areas such as complaints, client care, data management etc. To confuse us a bit more, many solicitors and legal firms have qualified for the international quality mark ISO9001, which many assert is harder still to obtain.
It’s obviously good that these quality marks exist, but all solicitors must abide by the extremely comprehensive Solicitors Regulations Authorities code of conduct anyway. The bottom line is all solicitors are heavily regulated, but the difference between the good ones and less effective is their attitude to the well-being of their customers. You’ll only find that out by asking past clients.
The power of word of mouth is important, check with other clients that they have valued the service. Ask around for recommendations if you’re not sure.