When it comes to choosing a family solicitor where do you start? Well there are many ways, from phoning friends and family, to scouring the internet or even picking up the phone and speaking to one of the family law firms that advertise on the back of buses or at hoardings at the railway station.
Those may be some ways to choose a family solicitor but I suspect that using those methods you will not chose one that is necessarily right for you.
Why it is so important to choose a family law solicitor that is right for you
Getting divorced or taking part in children or financial court proceedings is stressful. It is still going to be tough, whatever family law solicitor you chose. However, the process will be easier if you find a family law solicitor you can work with and feel comfortable instructing.
Some family law solicitors may be great academic lawyers but you do not feel able to talk to them and tell them about personal matters or tell them what you want. Other family law solicitors may offer cheap price divorce and financial settlements but you may question how approachable they are and if you are getting the best service.
Questions to ask when choosing a family law solicitor
When you chose a family law solicitor, you are likely to be working with them for some time so it is important to choose with care. I deliberately say ‘’working with’’ as a family law solicitor should not tell you what to do. Instead, they should talk to you about what information is needed, assess your legal options, and help you make informed choices, whether that is a referral to mediation, the commencement of court proceedings or an agreed financial settlement.
Who will you be instructing?
That is not as stupid a question as it sounds. In some family law firms you may see a partner on the first meeting but not speak to them again as they will delegate the work to a junior solicitor or paralegal. That can be frustrating if you chose the firm based on the recommendation to an individual family solicitor or thought that the price quoted for the advice was based on an experienced senior solicitor carrying out all the work for you. Many family solicitors delegate work and normally it is in your interests that they do so, but you need to understand who will be helping you.
Is the solicitor a specialist?
Most people assume that a solicitor knows what they are doing but is your solicitor a specialist in family law. Do they do a bit of family law as well as property law and Wills? Nowadays professionals will specialise in one area of law. In large firms or niche family law firms, you will find solicitors that specialise in child law or child abduction or financial settlements or prenuptial agreements.
You may not think that your situation is so complicated that you need a specialist but a specialist solicitor may be more efficient in resolving your legal problem or come up with potential solutions that you have not thought of.
Has the family law solicitor provided the cheapest quote or lowest hourly rate?
When it comes to choosing a solicitor the one who quotes the cheapest price for the job or the lowest hourly rate will not necessarily end up as the cheapest solicitor.
The old adage ‘’ you pay for what you get’’ applies. If you chose a solicitor with a lot of experience they may quote a higher hourly rate than a junior solicitor may but they should be able to focus on the key issues and help you reach a speedy resolution, rather than end up in court proceedings.
If you are offered a quote for the ‘’job’’ check there are no hidden extras such as court fees or VAT. Also, check to make sure what the quote covers. It pays to read the fine print in a price guide as if you are offered a fixed fee divorce does the quote cover meeting a solicitor or being able to ask questions, or will your instructions be processed online or via a call centre.
How does the family law solicitor propose to resolve your case?
This question may sound like another daft question but it is not. If the solicitor talks of court proceedings as the only option then their ‘’can do’’ attitude may be appealing to you. However, court should be seen as the last resort.
Court proceedings are expensive and no solicitor can guarantee an outcome. A solicitor, who takes a more measured approach and talks of the keys issues and how to compromise to reach a negotiated settlement, whilst still achieving your goals, may get the same result for you, but without the expense and trauma of court proceedings.
Do you like the family law solicitor?
Liking your family law solicitor is not an essential part of choosing your solicitor but it does help to either like or respect them. After all, you will be working with them, as a team, so you need to be able to talk to them about your personal and financial affairs and have confidence in them.
If you like your family solicitor then it makes it easier to reach a children or financial settlement. That is because when they suggest a compromise or a solution you know you will feel comfortable discussing the pros and cons with the solicitor and can have an honest discussion about whether or not you would get a better deal by going to court.
Remember though, however much you like your solicitor you are the one who is in charge. They may offer advice, support and guidance on your legal options but the choice is yours.