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January blues - Choosing the right solicitor

View profile for Nina Lake
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Monday 5 January 2015 was officially labelled ‘Divorce Day’ by the British media this year. Whilst some people smugly trotted off to the gym, swore to never eat chocolate again and vowed to spend less and save more, others started off the New Year in a rather different way.

Often people feel the need to ‘keep things together’ over the festive period, be it for the sake of the children, other family members or just because the prospect of visiting a solicitor to discuss the breakdown of their marriage during a time that is meant to be filled with joy and excitement is quite frankly, depressing! Whatever the reason, it can’t be denied that there is certainly a peak in new enquiries for a family solicitor when the New Year comes round.

It is important for those considering a separation from their spouse to select their solicitor carefully, whatever time of year they decide to take this step. It is not a case of ‘one size fits all’ and it is really important to deal with someone that not only has the professional ability and experience to deal with your separation, but that you also feel comfortable speaking to and above all trust in their legal capacity.

You should consider what is important to you when selecting a solicitor. Do you want someone that is local to where you live, recommended by a friend, whom you know to have a good reputation in the industry or someone that won’t cost you an arm and a leg? Other considerations might also come into play. Do you require wheelchair access? Do you require a solicitor that speaks a language other than English? Ensure you think carefully about what you will require from your solicitor going forwards as although it is stressful picking the right solicitor, it is equally as stressful (if not more so) trying to change solicitors part way through proceedings.

It is always worth starting with recommendations from friends and family and putting together a shortlist from these combined with your own research. The Law Society website (see below) provides a good index of registered solicitors in England and Wales so that you can check which firm the solicitor works for and how many years qualified they are. You can also look on the website of the law firm at which the proposed solicitor works to find out a bit more about them by reading their profile.

I would then suggest calling around each of these solicitors to have a chat and to find out what their chargeable hourly rate is. Although some solicitors might give you an exact quote for how much things will cost from the outset a lot will not provide an exact figure. This is because sometimes cases that appear straightforward have hidden complications which might serve to increase your costs. So don’t be too put off if an exact figure is not provided, although an estimate of some sort most definitely should be given from the outset. If you are cost conscious, it might also be worth asking if the family law team at that firm employ a trainee solicitor who can assist to keep your costs down.

Many solicitors will provide a free or cheaper initial meeting so that you can find out whether they are the right person for you. It is a good idea to come to this meeting with a list of things you wish to discuss so that it can be used as productively as possible. It is usually the case that you come away from that meeting with a feeling as to whether that solicitor is the right person to represent you or not.

Some useful links to assist you in making your decision can be found below: