Key questions to ask before hiring any solicitor or barrister

Seeking legal advice, no matter what the need may be, can prove to be a daunting experience for anyone, which is why choosing the right representative to handle your case is of paramount importance.

By carrying out thorough research and understanding all the right types of questions to ask, you will be in a better position to select someone who is the most appropriate for your circumstances.

Continue reading as we outline several key questions to ask before hiring any solicitor or barrister.

How long have you been practicing?

The experience level of the person you are hiring to provide legal advice or representation is, of course, significant. If they have been practicing law for many years, this could offer a good indication of how well they are able to handle your case. That being said, there are many fantastic junior lawyers out there, so try not to be put off by the label.

When searching for direct access barristers, which allows members of the public to approach a barrister directly to work on their case, it is advisable to use the Bar Council’s direct access portal. This enables people to search the database for all public access barristers, listing their practice areas, experience and how long they have been a qualified barrister. 

What type of cases do you deal with?

The most important aspect that should influence your choice of solicitor or barrister is whether they specialise in your area of law and, in particular, your type of case. This is imperative, as finding someone who has a wealth of experience and has handled many cases like yours can save you a significant amount of time and money in the long-run. 

Begin by searching for a legal firm or barristers’ chambers which specialises in your particular area of need – for instance, a family law firm if you need advice on an adoption case. Next, approach the firm directly and ask for a consultation with the most suitable person for the case. You can then ask the lawyer for information on the nature and types of cases that were similar to yours.

Be wary of any solicitor who claims to specialise in everything – this is an immediate red flag. Instead, focus on finding a person with deep knowledge and experience in handling your particular type of case, in order to achieve the best outcome.

What are your fees?

Legal costs are obviously a factor that will affect your decision since fees will vary depending on the solicitor or barrister you select. In order to help people come to an informed decision, solicitors’ firms are obliged to publish pricing information on their websites for certain practice areas. Likewise, barristers must disclose information on their fees, such as if they use a “fixed fee” structure, or if they charge per hour.

As such, all trustworthy legal providers should be honest and upfront about their fees. Once you know what you are going to pay, make sure you receive a written statement which outlines each service and the fees you will be charged.

If you qualify for legal aid, which helps cover the cost of your legal advice, family mediation or representation in court, you must check that the solicitor is able to take on this work. Similarly, it is important to note that if you are approaching a barrister directly under the public access scheme, this will not be covered by legal aid. 

How will you keep me updated on my case?

Communication is vital when working with a lawyer or barrister, so it is wise to establish from the outset when and how they will keep you notified of what is happening with your case. Make sure you exchange vital contact information straight away and are able to agree on the method and frequency of your communication.

If you prefer to have face-to-face meetings, then you will need to select someone who works locally and has the time to facilitate this.

How long will my case take?

When discussing your case with the solicitor or barrister, they should be able to give you an estimate of the amount of time they think it should take the reach a conclusion. Bear in mind that an estimated timeframe may be easier for a solicitor to evaluate than a barrister, who may, for instance, have to wait for court dates.

What is the likely outcome of my case?

Whilst your lawyer may not be able to guarantee the outcome of your case, their experience in handling similar cases in the past will enable them to offer a frank assessment of how yours could play out. 

A good lawyer should be honest and upfront about any foreseeable challenges and should make this clear to you from the beginning.

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