As the person who will be handling your family law matter (whether it’s divorce or civil partnership dissolution, financial settlement, or an application in respect of arrangements for your children) it’s essential that your solicitor is someone that you trust completely to achieve the best outcome for you. The following points should be borne in mind when making your decision:
1. Clarity about cost
A number of family law solicitors may offer free initial meetings; but these will often be for a fixed amount of time. Given this, it may not be possible to deal with all of the questions you may have and the issues that follow. Although it may seem like a good deal, family law issues can rarely be summarised in half an hour.
Similarly, some law firms may provide initial estimates that do not accurately reflect the potential costs which you are likely to incur. It may seem more attractive to go with the firm that quotes you a much lower fee estimate, but you should think about whether this is realistic. Most family law solicitors charge by the hour (though fixed fees can be arranged in some circumstances) and, as a result, very low cost estimates should be treated with caution.
Given the fact that many people at some stage in their lives have a need for a family law solicitor, it’s not surprising that there are so many to choose from. However, it is vital that you check whether your prospective solicitor is accredited or recognised by the various family law professional bodies (such as Resolution). This is important as it recognises that your solicitor has undergone intensive examinations and regular training in their area of expertise.
As with all professionals, the reputation of your prospective family solicitor is key. Often, the best people to provide a recommendation for a family lawyer are close friends and family members who have had similar experiences. This can be supplemented by checking whether the firms you are considering are recognised by the independently rated Legal 500 and Chambers Guide to the Legal Profession.
The best family solicitors will always be open to creative ways of resolving a dispute and minimising costs to their clients. If you are concerned that your solicitor is difficult to contact, or unclear about his or her advice, or even slow to deal with your instructions, then you should consider changing solicitors.
Above all else your family solicitor is your trusted adviser. He or she will be the one giving you advice as to what chances of success various approaches to your case may have. As such, if he or she encourages unrealistic expectations then the end result could be serious and distressing. Indeed, it is usually late on in the progress of a case (typically before a judge) that clients realise that the unrealistic attitude of their solicitor has worked against them.
On the other hand, a realistic, pragmatic approach from an experienced and committed family solicitor will help to provide you with a sense of reassurance and trust that will greatly benefit you and your case.