Law Week a chance to discover the role of a solicitor and best legal advice

WHILE entitled to a high standard of legal advice and representation, there are a number of ways a client should help their solicitor.

To represent a client’s interests successfully, a solicitor needs information, so give full and clear instructions.

Always be honest and lawful. It is unwise to lie to your solicitor and they have a duty not to mislead.

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Before speaking with a solicitor it is a good idea to be prepared; write down a summary of the matter, including questions and the contact details of all persons involved.

Follow the solicitor’s instructions as quickly as possible.

Understand the fees and costs involved in using a solicitor. They are required by law to disclose fees and other expenses before they start working.

The law is complex, so if there is any confusion the client should ask for an explanation as soon as possible.

Given that some legal issues can take time to resolve it is also important to agree on a how often there should be communication or contact. 

Most important of all – trust. A solicitor is a trained professional and their advice is based on years of experience and training.

Solicitors are required by law to disclose their fees and other expenses before they start working for a client. 

This is known as the duty of disclosure.

Solicitors are entitled to charge fees that are fair and reasonable and may be calculated at a fixed amount; an hourly rate; no win, no pay; or a method of charging as negotiated to suit the circumstances.

In addition to fees, solicitors will charge for expenses incurred on your behalf, for example, barrister's fees or court fees.

They cannot charge you for preparing a costs agreement, making disclosures to a client, or preparing the client’s bill.

Fees between solicitors can vary due to differences in expertise, seniority, location and urgency.

Compare the legal fees from a number of different solicitors. As with any other service, the lowest cost may not necessarily be the best value.

A solicitor cannot charge interest on outstanding fees, unless bill states that interest is payable and also states the rate, or until 30 days after the client has been given the bill.

Solicitors can ask clients for money in advance for things such as barrister's fees, medical reports and filing fees. However, the money is put into a trust account until it is spent in accordance with the client’s directions.