What is a Solicitor?

For many people, it could be the first time they have sought the advice of a solicitor: it might be regarding a house-move or perhaps for a Probate matter. To seek the advice of a solicitor in a Family Law setting is, however, very different.

Often, when people get divorced and/or separated, a client will assume that a solicitor knows everything.

Below are a few examples of the things that people may own when they are together (and in which a solicitor is expected to be an expert).

Many clients will have a pension of one sort or another and, when people get divorced – on the face of it – pensions can seem easy to deal with.

It is important to remember that solicitors are not pension experts. There are complicating factors, such as tax implications, that need to be considered.

Sometimes a solicitor will be sued because the client becomes impatient and wants an immediate answer (they are tired of the pain that the relationship breakdown has caused). However, when the dust has settled, they may discover that additional disclosure, and/or having an expert onboard, could have produced a very different outcome indeed.

Clients who are self-employed (or who own their own business) will often seek the advice of a solicitor on commercial and business matters. It should be noted that a solicitor is not an accountant when it comes to valuing an enterprise.

The value of a property may fluctuate unless the respective parties can agree on a sale value. Solicitors are not valuers, fine art, or jewelry experts; neither are they credit lenders. Similarly, solicitors are not experts in identifying the cost of these sorts of items. Solicitors do not come cheap, but they are the only professionals that are not invested in the case and who can give an independent opinion.

Below are examples of the work that a solicitor does:

  • A Family Solicitor listens to the client about their case.
  • Explains the proportionality between taking a matter before the Court and the costs involved.
  • Explains how the Court will look at the case that is presented to them.
  • Presents the case.
  • Corresponds with the other solicitors and/or the litigant in person.
  • Supports the client.
  • Drafts documents, questionnaires, letters of instruction, and questions experts.
  • Represents the clients at Court, or seeks alternative representation, by way of a suitable barrister and the costs therein.

Very often, a lay person cannot understand why they become unstuck at the Matrimonial and/or Financial Remedy Courts. Why does it take so long? We all stand in line and, even when we are given dates to attend Court, the information that is needed to present the person’s case is not available because of COVID.

I was recently involved in a situation whereby two litigants in person had begun their case, and there was little, or no, information for the Court to deal with.

Whilst no-one likes paying legal fees, to deal with a Financial Remedy case on your own (when you have assets) is like playing Russian Roulette.

I often say to my clients, “close your eyes, and what do you see?” If they respond that they see nothing, then that is exactly what the Courts see when the information is not provided.

A solicitor goes through years of training to be able to assist clients. It is not surprising, therefore, when a lay person finds this a somewhat difficult path to tread.

Costs (Private Costs)

  • A solicitor charges by the unit.
  • Keep your phone calls short, and make sure you have the information at hand.
  • In most cases, seeking the advice of a solicitor is chargeable.
  • Legal advice is not free.
  • If you are going to instruct a barrister, you will need to find the money up- front.

Remember your solicitor’s Terms and Conditions and Rate Card so you are aware of what you will be charged for.