What do you want from your lawyer?

What do you want from your lawyer?

I would be surprised if many prospective clients ever pause to ask this question, far less do any research to match a lawyer to their requirements. It’s odd when you think about it. People agonise endlessly over their cars and holidays, even their clothing, yet choosing the right lawyer in a life-changing case rarely receives the same attention.

Not all lawyers are right for every case, nor every client. Here are some considerations when choosing the right lawyer for your case.

Don’t be guided solely by price

The most expensive lawyers must be the best ones, yes? Well, not necessarily. It is certainly true that lawyers with a proven track record for excellence feel able to charge more but you would be surprised how many poor ones feel the same way. Ask yourself whether they are simply trying to look flash or really have an impressive back catalogue of work. Is this solicitor charging you a lot of money when in reality they have built their reputations on the back of the barristers they instruct?

Will you get the lawyer you want?

You may be drawn to the most senior lawyer in the practice but are you going to get him or her? Senior lawyers naturally like to deal with either serious, complex, high-profile or well-paid cases. If your case does not fall into any of those categories then it is likely to be passed down the chain to someone more junior. There is nothing necessarily wrong with this and the lawyer you wanted may continue to supervise the preparation but you should ask: ‘will the lawyer I wanted be dealing with my case?’

Am I receiving straight-forward advice on costs?

Solicitors are obliged to advise you as to the most cost-effective way to run your case. That does not mean they are obliged to represent you in that fashion. Legal aid may be available in your case but that does not mean every lawyer would take on your case under that scheme.

Litigation of any kind can be unpredictable but you should be given a decent estimate of costs, told what each stage will involve and advised of what might change the figure. A single defendant facing one charge may find himself joined to a larger case with six. This would alter the dynamic of the case and costs would increase.

Does the lawyer specialise in my kind of case?

Many lawyers claim to specialise in one area or another but this is rarely so. However, you will find that some firms have greater experience in, say,  sexual or fraud cases. Check the website carefully. If you know someone who has gone through a similar experience, ask them their view of the firm they used.

The choice of advocate in court

There are good reasons to do your own research here. Traditionally, clients let their solicitors choose the advocate but there is much to be said for having some input. Some solicitors keep their advocacy in-house which is fine if the standard is high – not so good if they are poor. Equally, some solicitors have long-standing relationships with barristers and not all of them are of the highest quality. Do your own research on the internet and make sure the solicitor hears your view. You should remember though that the same rules apply to barristers as they do for solicitors. If you ask Jonathan Laidlaw QC to do your assault trial on legal aid at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court, you won’t get him.

Can you get along with your lawyer?

This might seem like an odd question but you need to feel comfortable with your legal team. This does not mean you will become friends – more that you need someone you can communicate well with. After all, this person is taking responsibility for one of your more stressful experiences in life. Does he or she inspire confidence? Do they answer your queries straight-forwardly? Have they allowed and encouraged appropriate input into your own case?

Don’t be afraid to ask

Why not go and meet the lawyer? You may not be able to expect a free consultation but many will spare a few minutes to chat to you. See whether you get along with them and test whether their website claims have something to back them up.

And remember – you’re the client – it’s your case. Don’t sell yourself short.

Tim Cosham

Tim Cosham

Tim qualified as a Solicitor in 2009 and specialises in Criminal Defence work. He regularly appears at Magistrates Courts and Police Stations to represent clients accused of all offences from shoplifting to murder.

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