Lots of people feel wary about using solicitors, considering them to be too expensive (and a bit pompous), so it is perhaps worth having a post on this blog giving the reasons why using a solicitor is generally a good idea.
1. Legal knowledge and training
It takes a long time to study and train to be a solicitor – I know, I’ve done it. There are three stages:
- The academic stage, which is either a law degree or if you have a degree in something else, a conversation course which covers the main legal topics.
- The professional training stage, which is normally a one year course studying the legal practice course, although you can do it part time, and
- The practical stage where you work as a trainee solicitor at a law firm for two years.
I discussed training to be a solicitor in my blog post >>here.
Once qualified, all solicitors have to do 16 hours continuing professional development per year, and will not be given their practice certificate unless they have done this.
All solicitors firms must obtain professional indemnity insurance and are not allowed to continue in practice without it.
In addition all solicitors pay into a compensation fund to cover those few situations, which are not covered by the professional indemnity insurance.
3. Solicitors code of conduct
All solicitors have to work to a code of conduct which you will find on the Solicitors Regulation Authority website.
4. Legal complaints service
There is a special organisation set up to deal with complaints against solicitors. It is called the Legal Complaints service. Visit the Legal Complaints Services web-site for more information.
You can find out more about solicitors regulation generally from the web-site of the Solicitors Regulation Authority, which has helpful information about using solicitors.
5. Legal analysis and experience
As well as the important regulatory stuff discussed above, there is another reason why a solicitor is a good choice if you have a legal problem.
As you study law, during the long procedure leading to qualification and afterwards, your brain changes and you learn to think in a different way.
I started my legal training a bit later than most and I noticed this happening. It’s difficult to describe, but it’s rather like having a radar in your head which can spot legal problems and analyse them. (I imagine the same thing happens with doctors and diagnosis).
This is the real reason why a solicitor is a good choice, and is also why they are entitled to charge what to some people may seem to be over high fees. Anyone can look something up in a book. But it takes long training and experience to understand how the rules all fit together and can be applied to any one situation. And also to anticipate the pitfalls which may trap the unwary.
A non regulated adviser or organisation, may be able to provide a perfectly adequate service for standard situations. However not all situations are standard. And (worryingly) this may not be immediately apparent at first glance.
Where these unregulated services often fall down is that they fail to spot those warning signs which make your situation different, and which mean that your case needs to be dealt with in a different way.
Other legal service providers
- Legal Executives also have a long and rigorous training, are regulated, and are often just as good as a solicitor. Sometimes they are better. Most of the comments above about solicitors, apply to Legal Execs too.
- Likewise licensed conveyances can be an excellent choice for conveyancing work.
- Barristers have an equally rigorous training and experience to solicitors, but do not generally work directly with the public.
However non regulated advisors (including some advisors with large national charities) and unregulated quasi legal service providers may have had limited training and experience, and their advice should be treated with caution.