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How to Choose a Solicitor

Finding a solicitor

We think that finding a good solicitor is similar to finding a good builder or car mechanic. It’s one of those professions that do specialised work that most of us need from time to time, but we don’t know very much about. It can, therefore, feel like there is a high risk of being ripped off, which isn’t a nice feeling.

Charging

Understanding how solicitors charge is a good place to start as there are a few different ways they do this:

1. A fixed fee agreed up front.

2. An hourly rate.

3. A percentage of something (eg. a percentage of the value of the estate). We highly recommend avoiding this type of charging.

It would be ideal if a solicitor is prepared to work on a fixed fee basis. If that is not possible, try and find a competitive hourly rate and make it clear that you would like to be as proactive as possible in minimising costs. It can be a false economy to choose the lowest rate you find as often the best solicitors charge the highest rates, but not always.

Word of mouth

A good place to start looking is in your immediate network - by word of mouth. Make sure the recommendation is from someone that went through the estate administration process with the solicitor. Ask how they found the promptness of their communication - bad communication is cited as the top reason for customer dissatisfaction.

Wider search

Unless you are lucky enough to get an absolutely fabulous recommendation, we would suggest comparing at least three firms.

You can find one that is registered with the relevant law society below, be sure to select the area of law you are looking for:

England & Wales (wills, trusts and probate)

Scotland (wills, executries and trusts)

If you would like to choose a solicitor that has a stronger social conscience, it may be worth checking if they do Pro Bono work in their spare time.

Arranging a meeting

Make sure the solicitor has a lot of experience dealing with whatever specific reason you are hiring them for.

Most firms offer a free initial consultation, make sure this is agreed upon beforehand. Also, ask exactly what information you should bring with you. Try and organise this information properly to avoid wasting time on the day.

Have a think about things and write down your objectives for the meeting. Also, write down any questions you can think of. This will boost your confidence.

If you are going to their office for a meeting, it is a good idea to take someone else along with you. It’s easy to miss or forget things and an extra brain can come in handy. The meeting should last no longer than 1 hour.

Don’t feel pressured

If you are hiring them for a substantial piece of work, we would not recommend committing to move forward with them at your initial consultation. Have a think afterwards about how you got along with them and what sort of person you think they are. Sleep on it and maybe even go for another free consultation with someone else.

Depending on the specific work you are instructing the solicitor for, you could be dealing with this solicitor for a reasonably long time. There may also be future work you need them for that you don’t know about yet, it is often easiest to stick with the same one as they will be familiar with your case.

Specific Situations

-Foreign Assets

If there are foreign assets in the estate, unless you are very well accustomed to that country, we would highly recommend finding a foreign solicitor to deal with these assets. You could greatly reduce the costs by dealing directly with them rather than through a local solicitor.

Use the Step website to find one that administers estates.

Follow the advice above about comparing a few and also make sure you are happy with their level of English.

-Bond of Caution (Scotland only)

If you haven't heard of this then it isn't relevant for you.

If you need a solicitor to obtain a bond of caution for you they will probably insist on taking over the entire administration. We recommend you resist this.

While they may require to have ultimate oversight due to the terms and conditions of the bond, this doesn’t mean you can’t continue to contact and receive information from 3rd parties and pass the relevant information to them.

Solicitors will be unfamiliar with people being so clued up on this, try and reduce their level of participation to the minimum they would feel comfortable with and agree a fixed fee.

Ask them for a list of what they need specifically for those areas and continue to follow the steps in our guide.

Complaints

If you aren’t satisfied with the service you receive from a solicitor you should, in the first instance, use your solicitor's complaints procedure.

If you are still unsatisfied, use the links below:

Complaints in England & Wales

Complaints in Scotland

Complaints in Northern Ireland