How can you be sure that you are choosing the right person to give you advice when you separate? You might be going through tough times, and to make it worse, you have to deal with the unfamiliar world of lawyers and courts and dispute resolution.
Most people find a lawyer online or get a recommendation from a friend. That can be fine – recommendations in particular are very useful – but what about:
- Do they have the knowledge and skills to deal with your particular circumstances?
- Do you like them? Do you get on, and feel able to talk openly with them?
- Do you understand what they are saying? Do they communicate clearly?
- Are you comfortable with the advice – even if it’s not what you want to hear, does it all make sense?
The best option is to talk to 2 or 3 different lawyers before making your decision. Ring the firm, see if they will talk to you, and check that you are comfortable with their approach. Alternatively, most firms of solicitors offer a fixed fee initial meeting (it’s £100 here at bbl family law). If your case is going to be complicated, it’s worth meeting a couple of people to check you find the right person.
Remember, the lawyer isn’t your friend. They are there to support you but also to be realistic about the strengths and weaknesses of your situation. Are they giving:
- Clear, understandable advice?
- Have they explained the reasons and background for that advice?
- Have they understood your concerns?
- Conversely, are you comfortable they have filtered out the information they need, and are they focusing on getting helping you see beyond things which lawyers shouldn’t really be dealing with?
- Have they been open about costs? People sometimes feel uncomfortable talking about fees. The lawyer should take the lead and tell you what the costs are likely to be. At the initial meeting they can only give a range of costs for different outcomes, but it is important that they are open with you. They should also talk about how and when the fees are paid.
- Are they a member of Resolution? They are the national organisation which promotes a better approach to family law.
Also, make sure they give you information about the full range of options. They should give you advice about what the court might do, but also give you information about the options for avoiding court. Have they mentioned “DIY” (which means you and your ex sorting things out between yourselves, with the lawyers in the background to give you advice if you need it)? Or mediation? Or collaborative law? Or arbitration? If not you need to question why not – these processes can be much cheaper than using lawyers in the traditional way. You need to be satisfied that the lawyer is helping you find the right process for you. More details about options can be found here.
If in doubt please ring and ask to talk to one of our solicitors – we welcome the chance to have an initial chat with you!