Things You Should Know If You’ve Never Hired a Lawyer Before

Finding a lawyer may be the priority, but if you’ve never hired one before there are a few things you should know before you sign a contract.

There are different types of legal professionals 

Legal professionals go by a variety of names. If you’ve never hired one before, it can be difficult to know what the difference is.

For example, your property purchase could be dealt with by a conveyancing solicitor, or a Licensed Conveyancer. And your will could be written by a solicitor, or a professional Will Writer. 

In these examples, each type of legal professional will be qualified to provide the service you need. But some legal service providers will be cheaper than others.

Often the difference is between someone who is a lawyer who happens to focus on that area, or someone who is qualified just for that specific service. 

For example, a conveyancer will typically be cheaper than a solicitor.

What’s best for you depends on your needs. Perhaps you want a lawyer you could come back to for other things, or maybe you want someone who is an expert in the one thing you need? 

How instructing a lawyer works 

If you’re using The Law Superstore, you’ll receive quotes from up to 4 different legal professionals. Some of them may contact you to ask further questions and give more detail to your quote. Once you’ve chosen a legal firm, you can discuss how you expect to move forward, what information you need to provide and how payment will work. 

The person handling your case may not be who you instructed

The person who handles your case may not be who you instructed.

While you may have chosen your solicitor based on them seeming competent and likeable, legal cases are often a joint effort. Your case may be passed on to a more junior member of staff.  

Similarly, they may get consultations from other legal professionals, or use a paralegal to do the research into the case. While your main contact may be the solicitor you spoke with, don’t be surprised if they don’t always have all the information when you call, as another member of the team may be working on it. 

Lawyers have different levels of experience

The legal profession, like any other, is practiced by people of different levels of experience.

Some lawyers, crustier than an artisan sourdough loaf, have seen it all. While others are fresh from their training, full of promise but lacking real world experience.

Both the experienced and the inexperienced lawyers will be able to handle your case. But hearing from an experienced lawyer can help put your mind at ease, particularly if your case is complicated or unusual.

Ask your potential lawyer how much experience they have and whether they’ve handled cases like yours before. Remember that you can shop around – you don’t have to pick the first lawyer you talk to.

What is the process and timeline? 

Whether you’re getting a will drawn up, starting divorce proceedings, or buying a property, you want your lawyer to be able to guide you through the process. They should be able to explain where to start, what you’ll need to do, and how long it might take. Understanding the steps of each process is important, and a legal professional who takes the time to explain and educate is one who will help guide you through. 

How you’ll communicate with them 

Communication can often be a sticking point – you may feel you’re not getting enough updates, but sometimes it just takes time for everything to go through. If your lawyer hasn’t got any news to give, you probably don’t want them wasting time! Talk to your lawyer about the expected levels of communication, what their approach is, and whether they’re likely to email or call. 

How payment works 

There are different pay structures when dealing with legal work. 

Lawyers price their services based on the complexity of the work, how many hours they spend, and the seniority of the legal expert.  

Some legal experts may have a set fee for a certain service, perhaps for simple wills, or a straightforward transfer of equity. Others may have a sliding scale based on how complicated and time consuming the case is. 

Some cases are offered on a ‘no win, no fee’ and some are based on a percentage of your settlement. If your case is particularly interesting and potentially high profile, they may be happy to work pro bono, which would mean no or minimal fees.  

When do you pay?

Payment varies depending on the service and the firm. In most cases, you simply pay at the end when your case is finalised. If any extra hours have been spent on the case (for example an ongoing divorce) those will be accounted for and added to the bill. If there are any disbursements (external fees that the lawyer pays on your behalf) these may be paid during the process.  

For other, one-time services like will writing, the Will Writer or solicitor may take a deposit or advanced payment. 

Talk to your solicitor about what the whole process entails and when you pay. 

Do you really have a case? 

This is one people often forget. There might be situations when you don’t need a lawyer, or they shouldn’t be the first step.

For example, with divorce proceedings, you may want to use a mediator before moving into the legal sphere. A mediator can help you work with your spouse to iron out the details of your separation, so if you want to separate but need help working out how to divide assets and custody, that can be an option. 

There are also situations where you think you may have a case, but a legal expert can tell you it’s not worth proceeding. They will be able to tell you the cost and time constraints of a case, how often those cases succeed, and offer a professional opinion on whether to go forward. Often these cases are taken on ‘no win, no fee’ because they wouldn’t commit their time unless they knew it was likely to be successful.