Thankfully most of us will experience divorce or separation no more than once or twice in a lifetime. You are likely to need some professional help and as the decisions that are made now will effect you, your family and your financial security for years to come it is only sensible to instruct a Solicitor.
But where do you start when choosing a Solicitor? Does size matter? Won’t lawyers just make it worse? Aren’t they just making money out of your misery?
There are any number of smart websites and advertisements competing for attention; all claiming to be different from the rest.
Consider these tips on how to find the right Solicitor.
Do look at websites. This will give you a feel for the practice and tell you whether the Solicitor specialises in family matters. The Law is increasingly specialised and ever changing; don’t assume that the Solicitor who bought your house or prepared your Will be the right man/or right woman for the job, however brilliant they were at that particular job.
Is the Solicitor a member of Resolution? Membership of Resolution tells you that the Solicitor does specialise in family matters and is committed to a code of practice that focuses on the needs of you and your family.
Do listen to recommendations; from former client’s, from former spouses of former client’s and from other professionals.
Do consider seeing a Collaborative Family Lawyer. Collaborative Procedure may not be right for you but a Collaborative Family Lawyer will be an experienced Family Law specialist and a member of Resolution so you can expect to receive information and advice on all of the options including Collaborative Procedure, mediation, Court proceedings and other methods of negotiation. A collaborative lawyer will be better qualified than a non-Collaborative Lawyer to help you identify the right option for you.
When you meet the Solicitor consider the following:
i. Does the Solicitor really listen? Does he/she “get” what is most important to you?
ii. If you are feeling particularly anxious consider taking a friend with you; preferably one who will support you but who isn’t closely involved. You may forget half of what the solicitor tells you so it might be helpful to have someone else to help you remember and to ask the questions you might forget.
iii. Find out who will be responsible for your case and who are they? Not everyone who looks and sounds like a Solicitor is a Solicitor. Some have different or even no qualifications. Find out whether the same person will look after you at all times. In some practices a different or even more junior fee earner will represent you when you go to Court; would you be happy with that?
iv. Have you been given clear advice on what happens next, how much it is likely to cost and the likely timescale? Don’t assume that a lower hourly rate means that you will pay less in the long run. The hourly rate will reflect the qualifications and experience of your Solicitor.
v. Does the Solicitor provide information about different procedures including alternatives to Court? If you are told that there is only one way of doing things be sceptical. Remember that the way you do it can make a difference to your experience at this difficult time, the outcome and the cost to you.
vi. Do you feel that you can tell the Solicitor anything? It is important that you can. Your Solicitor is not there to judge you or your partner and will probably have heard it all before but the better your Solicitor knows you the better they can understand what you and your family need.
vii. Do ask questions; are your questions answered? You won’t necessarily really get a clear answer, the law isn’t an exact science and you may not get the answer that you want but you should understand why that particular answer is given. If you don’t understand either, ask further questions or see another Solicitor. It may be hard and you may not feel up to sharing personal information with someone else but this is going to be a really important relationship. Most Solicitors if asked will provide a free initial appointment without commitment.
viii. At the end of your first meeting do you feel confident in the Solicitors ability and that they have your interests at heart?