Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Choosing a solicitor: Part 3 – Trust, commitment, care and attention

It's on a cup so it must be good advice.
But, personally I'd always look a little deeper

This is the third and final instalment of our guide to choosing the best solicitor to handle you case. Part 1 deals with finding a solicitor with the right expertise and part 2 deals with getting the best value for your money from your solicitor.

When you choose a solicitor to represent you it’s important to pick somebody who you can trust to do the work on time, somebody who is committed to your case and who will give your work the care and attention it deserves.

Cuts to legal aid have led legal aid solicitors to change the way they practice law either by diversifying into other areas (thus losing their expertise as they cannot devote their full attention to any one area) or by adopting the “pile ‘em high, sell ‘em cheap” model of practice.

I began my career in a legal aid firm, which needed to bill an average of 50 cases per month to make its monthly target of £48,000 with a staff of 15.  By the time I handed back my legal aid contract in 2011 my firm was having to bill an average of 120 cases per month to make our monthly target of £13,000 (which was our break-even point) with a staff of just three!  The cases hadn’t got easier, in fact with the introduction of tougher court rules they had become harder and more time consuming.  It was obvious that the only way we would be able to meet that target without burning out was to do as little work as possible on each case.  It wasn’t how I was willing to represent people, so I got out of the legal aid market.  Since I got out the legal aid rates have been cut even further meaning firms have to take even more cases per month to make ends meet.

Some private client firms work the same way – charging low fees to attract as many clients as possible then doing the minimum possible work on each case.

What’s the point of this sojourn? It’s to get across the need for you to be able to trust the solicitor you instruct will give your case the full care and attention it deserves.  Ask your prospective solicitor how many ongoing cases he or she is handling at the moment and whether that is a normal level for him or her to operate at.  You should also ask how many hours they expect to spend working on your case – experience tells me that a typical magistrates’ court trial will take between 12 to 16 hours to prepare and present at court.  Crown Court cases can take far longer – the longest case I ever handled took around 300-hours to prepare and that’s not including any court time at all!

If the solicitor has a lot of cases ask yourself will they be able to give your case their full attention?  Is their fee significantly lower than their competitors?  If it is then you have to wonder how it is they can afford to do the work for that price.

No comments:

Post a Comment