Kuldeep S. Clair, Consultant Solicitor, offers his views
It is not easy to choose a solicitor and, of course, a lot of people hope never to have to need one. But when you do need one, you will want a very good friendly and experienced one, who knows what he or she is doing. It can be compared to being a patient in a hospital operating theatre. We may not want to be there, but once we are there, we want the best surgeon possible.
That comparison is actually somewhat unfair, as encounters with lawyers are not necessarily unhappy occasions at all. Many clients come to see me at joyous times in their lives; I don’t just deal with (resolving) peoples’ misery!
For instance, my clients may have secured a new job, a business contract, be establishing a new business partnership, or be signing a pre-nuptial agreement before marriage, or even ending employment/business relationships on very favourable amicable terms which I have helped to secure for them.
So back to the question – what should you look for in a lawyer?
- He or she should be regulated by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority or Bar Standards Board. If the former, he will also be admitted by the Law Society and you can check that by Googling his name using this weblink: https://solicitors.lawsociety.org.uk/ If he is not on there, he will most likely not be a properly registered solicitor and there is a reason to stay away. The site will also tell you when a lawyer actually qualified.
- What’s the big deal about being a solicitor, for instance? Isn’t it just a fancy title? Well, it takes several years of study, as well as a period in practice to qualify as a solicitor. Being able to practice law is not something that anyone can do by just picking up a few law books. Unfortunately, in the internet age, many law students and so-called ‘paralegals’ attempt to make money on the side by pretending to be lawyers on the web. There is actually not much unlawful in that, to a point. Anyone can say “Look at me, I’m an amazing lawyer!”, and that is because the term ‘lawyer’ has no defined legal meaning whatsoever! However, the terms ‘practising solicitor’ and ‘practising barrister’ do have a legally defined meaning. Anyone that falsely purports to be a solicitor or barrister and provides legal services for a fee is committing an offence, although that does not stop a few from doing so.
- What other advantages are there of using a proper professional solicitor? Solicitors must have professional indemnity insurance against any negligence committed by them. That is a professional requirement imposed by their regulatory body. They can only continue to practise lawfully if they have not acted negligently repeatedly. Otherwise, insurers will usually not insure them. That is one reason why many uninsured so-called ‘legal consultants’ and ‘legal advisors’ on the web can be so incompetent, useless and cheap.
- So am I saying that all solicitors are brilliant? Not at all. Many are still useless and incompetent. Things to look for when choosing between qualified practising solicitors are as follows:
- How long has the solicitor been practising, and when did he/she qualify?That will give you an idea of his/her experience. That can be found on the Law Society link above. If he or she qualified only very recently, that does not really give an excellent grounding or base of expertise. Many solicitors that I know may have been qualified for a decade but are still absolutely terrified of stepping into a courtroom in front of a Judge! They constantly instruct another lawyer/ barrister for advocacy (speaking in court). Sometimes (but not always), that can increase the total fee that the client pays. Personally, I do not think is fair on the client.
- Will your solicitor, assuming he or she is indeed a solicitor, be the person who is actually conducting your case all the way through? That is an important question, because many solicitors give the impression that they will deal with your case, when in fact most of the day-to-day paperwork behind the scenes will actually be shuffled off to a very junior clerk, whose competence might be questionable. Maybe a partner/solicitor will cast an eye over the clerk once a week. There is nothing necessarily wrong about this if the firm is clear about what is really going on, and the client knows that this is what will happen. But my 25 years in practice have taught me that solicitors are often less than clear about such matters behind the scenes, to put it politely.
I hope that the above was helpful. To assist, may I add the following information about myself:
- I am a Solicitor of the Senior Courts of England and Wales. You can check my credentials on the Law Society website using the above link. You will find that I have over 25 years of post-qualification experience as a solicitor. I would be the first to acknowledge that I knew very little in my first five years of legal practice. I know ten times more now!
- If you instruct me directly, I can guarantee that my work will be done through a regulated solicitors’ firm, Sterling Lawyers Limited, where I am the most experienced solicitor.
- I deal with all my cases 100% personally. I am available for queries on your matter even out-of-hours, within reasonable notice. I will call back if not available when you call, once you have instructed me.
- Despite my first-class City-based expertise, my fees are remarkably competitive. I regularly have to turn away work which does not appeal to me for any reason.
To arrange an expert initial consultation for a fixed fee, please contact me on 07484 614090 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Kuldeep Clair, Solicitor of the Senior Courts of England and Wales