It never ceases to alarm and surprise me that many people are still a bit afraid of instructing lawyers. Of course, I have been one for thirty years so I would say that. But believe me; it is not as scary as you might think. Most lawyers I know are human!
They just want to do the best job they can for their clients.
So here are 5 tips to make your experience of instructing a solicitor run smoothly –
- Make it clear what outcome you are expecting. It is your case. In many situations this is obvious. ‘I want to buy a house’, is fairly self explanatory. But that might not always be the case. I have acted for victims of medical negligence who are more interested in an explanation or apology than in the amount of any compensation. Others might seek disciplinary action against those at fault. Not all outcomes are necessarily viable. So say what you are looking for. Make sure the solicitor understands this and ask them to clarify it in a letter. So from day one you will be working together towards an agreed goal.
- Be clear about what the cost will be. All Solicitors are under a duty to explain this, so never be afraid to ask. In particular you should ask what funding options exist. You should be told anyway but nobody will mind if you want to be sure. Although Legal Aid will shortly disappear from many types of case, it is still available in many cases too. There are many no win no win options which, despite their bad press, can ease many concerns about legal fees.
- Don’t be afraid to ask how long it will all take. Some matters are quicker than others. A house purchase can be done and dusted in a month or so. A Medical Negligence or Industrial Disease case can take years. So it is best to know that from the start and to set realistic expectations.
- Establish the lines of communication. In other words find out who to speak to if you have a concern or simply want an update. There may times when your solicitor is away from the office or tied up in a meeting. They might even be on holiday! But someone should always be available to help. Never be afraid to ask on day one, who that will be. If you call and need to speak to the solicitor who is unavailable ask for a telephone appointment so there is an agreed time when you will receive a call. Or send an email. This is a very quick and safe means of communication and most lawyers these days know how to switch on a computer!
- Ask what you can do. You and your lawyers should be a team. You may have documents or, names of witnesses. Any information that you get you should pass on. Never tell yourself it is unimportant. If you think it is significant then it probably is.
So if you have a legal problem, don’t be afraid of the lawyers.
They are often as nervous as you as they want to impress and do a good job.