For most people, legal services are a significant expense and must be used cautiously. But if you do need legal advice, how do you choose a lawyer?
Comparing the quality of different lawyers is very difficult. The main obstacle is the huge variety of legal services which people want and the customisation of those services for their particular needs. It does not lend itself to easy comparison like, for example, buying car or other insurances online when you get directly comparable quotations for the same product.
There has been a move recently towards regulators of solicitors publishing adverse information about complaints, negligence claims and disciplinary findings, so called ‘name and shame’. Unfortunately, such data can give a totally misleading impression of a firm which may conduct thousands of transactions or cases but get it wrong in a very small percentage of them. Does that make it a bad firm?
Further, such data is not available for the increasing number of unregulated providers selling services such as Wills and Powers of Attorney who are not qualified solicitors, are not required to carry professional indemnity insurance and are not subject to disciplinary and complaints procedures. What price does a consumer place on proper recourse for bad service and the knowledge that any compensation will be paid?
So how can you identify a quality provider of legal services? There is no absolute answer but the following may be good pointers:-
- Personal experience and recommendation should never be underestimated
- Client satisfaction. Many firms now ask their clients a few simple questions at the end of a transaction and publish the results on their website
- Qualifications. Most quality firms will put the legal qualifications of their staff on their website
- Responding to enquiries. Was my call answered or returned in a polite manner and within a reasonable time?
- Accessibility. Being available to answer queries or pop in when in town can be hugely convenient when they have a question or something they want more information on
If a firm ticks all or the majority of the above boxes, you should feel reasonably confident that you will be in safe hands. Well informed self-interest is the best advice when it comes to choosing a personal lawyer or solicitor.