Those who give advice
Amazingly lots of lawyers will not give advice. They will list the options and sit on the fence.
Those who give an opinion
It is equally amazing how many won’t give an opinion.
For example, the advice could be if you want to take your child abroad you need the written permission of your ex-partner but what is your opinion as to the possible outcomes if you don’t as your ex won’t communicate.
For example, the advice could be do not move out of the house but what is your opinion of the likely outcomes if you do move out and stop paying the mortgage?
Those who talk the talk and walk the walk
Some solicitors sound great in the comfort of their own offices but put them in a court room or across the table form your ex-partner’s solicitor and they clam up. The only way to check this in advance is to have a referral or speak to ex clients of the solicitor. The best compliment I have received is to have the ex-partners of my clients recommend me to their friends and colleagues.
Those who constantly seek a settlement
Your solicitor’s job is to obtain a solution for you as swiftly and cost effectively as possible. They should constantly be seeking for a way to settle. If I go to court and the barrister on the other side states they are not interested in discussing a settlement I will ask them to take instructions. I always attend court ready to proceed as far as possible. If important financial disclosure is missing then this is not possible but most times I ensure I am fully prepared to finalise matters. Often this works.
Those who consider all methods of settlement
Has your solicitor discussed Collaborative Law with you? Mediation? If not why not?Both can be a great opportunity to reduce the acrimony and costs of divorce. Mediation is not the magic formula the Government hopes it will be. There are some mediocre and poor Mediators out there – some of whom give legal advice and take advantage of their position of power. Some of them are excellent. We only refer to a select few mediators who we know are able to look after our client’s interest in a fair manner in line with the tenants of mediation.
Those who look after your interest not your own
Some divorce solicitors will encourage you to litigate in order to increase their own earnings. You can tell they don’t care and do not consider the emotional aspects of divorce and the impact it can have on your whole family. I have had one divorce solicitor tell me that probably both our clients will go bankrupt but still encouraged his client to litigate to the end. Cynicism at its worst and it results in the whole industry getting a bad name. I care about my clients and their lives and it shows.
What should I look for in a solicitor?
Knows What the Law Is
Clearly you need a solicitor with experience in the relevant field and one who has sufficient background qualifications in that field.
Some solicitors give the whole industry a bad name by their approach to invoicing. Many solicitors charge on a time-costed basis which encourages inefficiency. For example, one solicitor could produce a Report in half an hour which would take another Solicitor four hours. The same document would therefore vary in price from £100 to £800.
Rewarding inefficiency in this manner is something that may be about to end, once Alternative Business Structures are in place.
I have had an extremely bad experience myself. I instructed an Employment Solicitor “Amanda Capon” for general advice on an Employment matter. I saw her for two hours. I then received a bill after receiving a lengthy 8 page letter, totalling £1900.00. Despite my emails requesting her only to carry out a limited amount of work, given that I had signed a Client Care Letter and given the fact that I had not instructed her to cease working, it was found by the Small Claims Court that I was due to pay her the full amount.
She charged 4 hours to produce a letter which she typed herself! The court stated it was a misunderstanding, however as the client, I was required to pay for the breakdown in communication.
It is, therefore, imperative that the terms of engagement are clear and you need to be aware that once you sign a Solicitor’s Client Care Letter it can, in some cases, be a virtual licence to print money.
Some Solicitors are optimistic. Some solicitors are pessimistic. Some solicitors will give an indication that your chances of success are greater or worse than they actually are. It is important to instruct a Solicitor with a similar attitude to risk as your own.
The Solicitor should point out the various options open to you. For example, if going through a divorce you can negotiate direct with your Spouse, go via mediation, negotiate via solicitors or make an application to Court. There is also a system called Collaborative Law. This doesn’t necessarily save money but is supposed to encourage the parties to negotiate given that the solicitors are unable to represent the parties in Court. Therefore, the parties will incur additional costs if they have to both instruct new Solicitors.
Responsive to Your Needs
If you need a Solicitor to give a general overview, and advice then, the Solicitor instead is focusing on process and procedure and is ignoring your instructions, It is best to dismiss that Solicitor straightaway and find an alternative.
As above, I have learned this to my cost. I feel, given this experience that I am now better able to understand client’s needs.