Most people have never had to consult a family law solicitor. Why would you? Well, you would if you were getting divorced or had difficulty seeing your children after a separation! The reality is that most people don’t know where to start when they are looking for a family law solicitor.
Some people rely on a recommendation. You are bound to know someone who has got divorced after all! Others rely on fancy marketing by solicitors. Or they will go to the solicitor that is nearby. All of these methods are perfectly valid, However, all solicitors at the first meeting are strangers unless you know them!
The first thing to check is that the solicitor has experience of family law. There are many specialisations in the law. You want to make sure you will be working with someone who knows what they are doing! I am staggered by how many solicitors I deal with who have no background in family law. The concern is that they may not be giving the right advice from the outset. Also, their charges may be higher because they are learning at the expense of the client! I can think of many cases where this has happened. Dealing with a solicitor who does not know what he or she is doing pushes my clients cost up!
An inexperienced solicitor could literally increase both parties’ costs by £1,000s. An experienced solicitor only brings to court the issues that can’t be settled beforehand. I recently dealt with a divorce where the other party defended the divorce petition when it was completely unnecessary to do so. The other party’s costs were enormous. My client ended up spending at least £5,000 more than he had to. Had they not gone to court – his costs would have been no more than £1,000! The other party eventually conceded the issue but it took 3 hearings to get there.
The next thing is to like your solicitor. Choosing someone to represent you in what could be very personal and traumatic circumstances is a choice that should not be taken lightly. Make sure you get along with the solicitor and you feel they are the right person to represent you. The solicitor needs to be collaborative but if and when required, he or she also needs to be firm and fight your corner.
The other major consideration is of course costs. Most people put this at the top of the list and I understand why. However, if you choose someone who is “the cheapest”, you may end up with someone who does not have the right experience and someone that you don’t necessarily get along with. In the end, that could end up costing a lot more. Don’t be penny-wise and pound-foolish. Costs are of course important and the solicitor should not be afraid to discuss these with you openly at the first meeting. If they don’t, consider your other options. At the end of the first meeting, you should have a good idea of the possible costs attached to each option.
Come and test me out, Venisha Shah, by calling 020 3150 2525 or sending me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.