How to get legal advice
The number of options available to you when it comes to picking a lawyer can seem overwhelming. But there are ways to successfully hone your search and ensure you pick the best person for the job. Moneywise TV shows you how.
Sooner or later we all need a lawyer. Maybe you're setting up a new venture, planning your future or having problems with family or work, you will need good representation. But at what price?
As a starting point ask friends and family for recommendations but bear in mind that just because one solicitor did a great job on your friend's divorce, it doesn't mean they should handle the conveyancing on your house.
Most local firms offer a breadth of services, but you may find individual solicitors only specialise in one or two areas. Check out the Law Society's find a solicitor service where you can search for firms by postcode and the areas of law they cover.
Alternatively you can contact specialist legal associations. Resolution is an organisation of family lawyers while STEP represents those specialising in trusts, estates and inheritance.
Always approach a handful of solicitors before making your choice. Use the opportunity to ask lots of questions to get an idea of their knowledge, professionalism and availability. Think about location, if you're going to have to go in regularly you don't want a lengthy trip.
The solicitor must give you an indication of cost before proceeding and will tell you how this is calculated. This is likely to be a fixed-fee or an hourly rate. If you are claiming for personal injury you may get a no win, no fee deal. Compare costs and find out what's included – cheap quotes are likely to be cheap for a reason.
If you have a low income or are on benefits you may get legal aid. This is based on the nature of your problem and your financial position – find out if you are eligible with the Community Legal Advice online calculator.
Legal advice is free if you are arrested and charged with an offence at a police station under the duty solicitor's scheme. You can use your own solicitor for free if they work for the Criminal Defence Service.
Before approaching a solicitor check your home insurance. Many policies include free legal expense insurance which will cover the cost of a number of legal problems including personal injury, employment issues, boundary and contract disputes.
In many instances a solicitor's advice is priceless but bear in mind there are other sources of help. Citizen's Advice can help in a wide variety of cases while trade unions can help with employment disputes. Community Legal Advice offers independent free legal advice over the phone, online and at advice centres throughout the country. The Law Society website also has guides on common legal issues.