Solicitors have a bad press, generally. They are seen as money-grabbing, ambulance-chasing wealthy people who profit from other people’s problems and misery. They drive flashy cars and wear nice suits and charge extortionate hourly rates.
Their role is to advise people as to the law and help them by applying the law to the facts of their case with the aim of improving their client’s chances of success in court or in an agreement with another party. The types of law are varied, and whilst some solicitors are sole traders who work across all types of field, most tend to specialise in one area and are specifically trained and expert in that field.
They charge well for their advice, though typically a third of an Associate Solicitor’s hourly rate goes towards their support staff (such as a secretary and office junior, plus office equipment) and a third goes directly into the coffers of the solicitors’ firm they work for, whilst a third goes towards their annual salary. Partners in a solicitors’ firm earn far more as they take a percentage of all the firm’s earnings each year, but their level of risk is much higher – if one of their partners or employees is negligent then the Partner stands to lose their business and also their personal assets if the firm is sued.
There are a number of fields of expertise that usually have their own department in an average high street firm. Very large firms normally specialise solely in Commercial Law, whilst very small firms tend to specialise in only one or two areas (normally Criminal Law and Family Law, or Immigration Law, depending mainly on the needs of the local population). Each department will have one or more solicitors working on the same types of case, and each solicitor will have any number of cases that they are working on at any given time (in a typical high street firm, a solicitor working in immigration law will have around 80 – 100 cases on the go at any one time).
Most average high street firms can help you if you need a conveyance to be carried out (e.g. if you’re buying or selling a house or business) and some have commercial departments that may be a cheaper option for your business law needs than going to a large commercial firm of solicitors (e.g. if you just need a bit of advice or help on filling in a stock transfer form).
Some firms offer public funding (legal aid) if they have a public funding contract with the body that manages the budget for this type of work. To be able to offer public funding in a particular field (e.g. immigration law, family law or criminal law) they have to be able to demonstrate that they are sufficiently expert in that field (e.g. because one or more of their solicitors in that department are members of specialist panels like the Children Panel). They also have to have their files audited annually to make sure that they are conducting their files reasonably and that they are charging fairly for their work.
Other firms do not have this contract to provide public funding – either because they do not specialise in fields that can be paid for with public funds (such as commercial law) or because the geographical area they serve doesn’t have much demand for public funding (i.e. if the local clients are wealthy, there won’t be much call for public funding as most clients will be able to pay privately).
Yes, solicitors are expensive if you can’t get public funding. But they take on a lot of risk and work long hours to be able to give you the best advice and produce the best outcomes for you. Some of the work they do can be done by you – e.g. making a will or drafting divorce papers – but case law is full of examples where people have represented themselves in such matters and ended up costing themselves a fortune in lost inheritances or divorce settlements. That professional advice is well worth paying for!
To choose a solicitor, book an initial half-hour with them (this is usually free) to get an idea of what they are like, whether you feel you can trust them, how enthusiastic they are about your case and what details they give you about their past experience and likely fees. These things will give you the best indication of whether or not to hire them – or to seek advice elsewhere.
DBS Law can provide advice on a broad range of law from, property law, personal law; conveyance
or advice completing a stock transfer
right through to personal injury, family law and commercial litigation. DBS Law are able to offer you up-to-the-minute legal advice, looking after your needs and being there to support you when you require advice, representation or resolution.