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Frequently asked questions

  • Browse our frequently asked questions about finding a solicitor below.

    Contact us if you cannot find the answer you need, however, we do not provide legal advice.

  • What are accident and injury specialists?

    If you, a friend or a relative has been injured in an accident that was someone or something else's fault, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries and loss of earnings.

    To help you decide whether you can make a claim contact a local solicitor specialising in injury claims. Select 'personal injury' or 'medical negligence' using our Find a solicitor search.

    Do solicitors speak my language?

    If English is not your first language, you should mention this when you are trying to find a solicitor.

    Our online Find a solicitor search displays firms that provide services in languages other than English.

    Advice on discrimination

    The Equality and Human Rights Commission works towards the elimination of racial discrimination and to promote equality of opportunity and good relations between different racial groups. It takes on some cases, and refers on those for which it does not have the resources. Usually the referrals are to law centres.

    Find out more at the commission's website - www.equalityhumanrights.com.

    Which agencies deal with environmental law?

    The Environmental Law Foundation (ELF) is dedicated to helping people make use of the law to protect and improve the environment. ELF can put you in contact with legal and technical members in your area www.elflaw.org.

    The United Kingdom Environmental Law Association (UKELA) comprises a number of regional goups of specialist environmental solicitors and barristers.

    Go to: www.ukela.org

    What is a claims assessor?

    Further information can be found at the claims regulation website.

    How can I get information about a Coroner's inquest?

    INQUEST is an advice, support and campaigning organisation. They cover a variety of issues including deaths in police and prison custody, the coroners court system, deaths in psychiatric and special hospitals, deaths at work and deaths involving issues of public heath and safety.

    INQUEST works with a group of sympathetic solicitors and barristers who may offer free/reduced cost legal help.

    Email: inquest@inquest.org.uk.

    How can I get advice about escaping domestic violence?

    If you are threatened by domestic violence, a solicitor can advise you about legal action to protect you, any children, and your home. Use our online Find a solicitor search facility. Choose 'Family' from the options for area of law.

    Emergency help and out-of-hours services include the following:

    • Solicitors - many have out-of-hours telephone services
    • Refuge - the 24 hour national crisis line: telephone 020 8995 4430
    • Women's Aid Federation of England - www.womensaid.org.uk
    • The emergency services - telephone 999

    Can I find a solicitor who provides free advice?

    If you do not qualify for free legal aid, it may be possible to arrange for a solicitor to act for you as part of pro bono work. This is work which a solicitor carries out without charging a fee. This work is done by many solicitors as a service to the community to ensure access to justice for the less well off.

    For more information about pro bono work see the LawWorks website, which is run by the Solicitors Pro Bono Group.

    How can I get advice on civil liberties and human rights?

    A solicitor may be able to provide advice. Use our online Finda solicitor search facility. To find a firm of solicitors working in this area of law Select 'Civil liberties/human rights' from the drop down list showing areas of law when searching for a firm.

    You may also contact the Criminal Cases Review Commission. This independent body was set up under the Criminal Appeal Act 1995 and is responsible for investigating suspected miscarriages of criminal justice in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

    Visit www.ccrc.gov.uk.

    How do I apply for citizenship of the UK?

    Use our online Find a solicitor search facility to search for a legal professional. If you need to get British Citizen status select 'Immigration and nationality' from the drop down list showing areas of law when searching for a firm.

    To find more information about Citizenship generally and the rights and responsibilities it carries visit the Citizenship Foundation, an educational charity promoting wider understanding of the law at www.citfou.org.uk.

    How do I get help emigrating?

    Our page about legal help abroad will help you find a lawyer outside of England and Wales.

    British citizens may also approach the British High Commission in the country you wish to emigrate to. Embassy locations and details can be found on the Foreign & Commonwealth Office website.

    Other resources:

    Martindale - a directory of lawyers throughout the world.

    What organisations help armed forces personnel?

    The Forces Legal Network is a national association of independent firms of solicitors with recognised experience of service personnel with legal problems both connected with service life and generally.

    Phone +44 (0)845 601 1260.

    How do I find help and information on visas?

    Visa applications and renewals are managed by the UK Home Office.

    For information about the types of visas available, eligibility criteria and application details visit the UK Border Agency website

    The Law Society cannot provide individual advice about visas or immigration issues. If you have a visa issue which requires legal assistance, you should speak directly with a solicitor. For information about solicitors with special expertise in this area see our Immigration and Asylum specialists page.

    How can children get legal advice?

    For care proceedings and associated matters search our online Find a solicitor facility, using 'children law' to find solicitors on the panel of solicitors recognised as competent in representing children and other parties in care and other proceedings under The Children Act and related matters. Children needing advice and support can contact Childline on 0800 1111.

    The Children's Legal Centre at is a national charity, based at Essex University, offering free advice on all aspects of law affecting children and young people. There is a special advice/advocacy service for children or parents involved in an education dispute in South East England but they will also help with problems outside this area.

    How can I find legal help abroad?

    If you need legal help with a situation outside the UK, you should consult a lawyer in the country concerned.

    Common situations of this type include:

    • Purchasing property abroad
    • Death or Wills of relatives who lived overseas
    • Marriage, divorce or child custody involving foreign nationals, in the country of origin
    • Injuries incurred, or complaints about medical treatment received
    • Arrests made abroad
    • Taking a case to the European Court of Human Rights

    Our page on finding legal help abroad contains links for useful resources to help you find a lawyer outside of England and Wales.

    You can also approach the British High Commission in the country of your enquiry for assistance. Search for embassy locations and details at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office website.

    Other resources:

  • Using a solicitor

  • How should I choose a suitable solicitor?

    Please note that The Law Society is not able to recommend a particular firm or solicitor but we do provide a directory of all licensed solicitors in the UK and Wales.

    Finding a list of solicitors in your area is easy using the Law Society's Find a solicitor facility. Think carefully about what type of service you need, and whether you'd like your solicitor to have special expertise.

    More information about ways to find the best solicitor for your needs is available on our page about Getting expert legal help.

    How do I know that my solicitor is qualified?

    The practising certificate guarantees that the solicitor is qualified to practise and has insurance to protect you if anything goes wrong.

    If you want to be sure, ask to see the certificate or contact the Solicitors Regulation Authority to check. Alternatively you can use our Find a solicitor online seach tool which lists all solicitors who currently hold a practising certificate.

    You can also ask your solicitor whether the firm has received any quality awards to prove that they have good standards of practice in place. If the firm has received the Law Society's Lexcel quality award, the Law Society will be able to confirm this.

    Individual solicitors might also be members of specialist accreditation schemes set up by the Law Society to cover a number of legal subjects. To gain accreditation, solicitors must show that they have considerable specialist knowledge. For information about finding a specialist see our Quality marks page.

    How do I prepare for meeting with my solicitor?

    Think carefully about the details of your case - the more preparation you do before the meeting, the more you'll get out of it. Make a list of the main points you want to make or the questions you want to ask. Get together any paperwork that might be relevant and put it in some kind of order so you can refer to it quickly. This will make it quicker and easier for your solicitor to understand your circumstances and give you proper advice.

    For more extensive information visit our page on using a solicitor.

  • What is after the event insurance?

    After the event insurance provides cover for any legal costs which you may be liable to pay the other side, as well as any disbursements paid out on your behalf if your claim is unsuccessful. The cost of the premium can be high and is not recoverable from your opponent if you win your case.

    You may have existing legal expenses cover included in your house or motor vehicle insurance policies, so you should check these before deciding whether or not to purchase an after the event policy.

    Before the event insurance: what is it?

    This type of insurance is commonly associated with car insurance and household contents insurance. It is often added to these polices at no cost, or for a few pounds.

    If you need access to legal services and have Before The Event insurance you should consider using this rather than some other form of funding (such as a 'no win no fee' agreement). Your solicitor can advise you the best course of action.

    Your employer, Trade Union, or any other body that you belong to (such as a sports club) may also have arranged insurance. If you believe you may be covered by such insurance you should talk to the appropriate body and take any relevant insurance documents when you go to see your solicitor.

    For more information about legal fees see Paying for legal services.

    Conditional fees: how does 'No win, no fee' work?

    Conditional fees are more commonly known as a 'no win, no fee' arrangement.

    For certain types of case, including personal injury, your solicitor may be prepared to work on a conditional fee basis. If you win the case, your solicitor's fees will mostly be paid by the other side. If you lose, you don't have to pay your solicitor's fees. You may be asked to take out an insurance policy to pay for the other side's costs if you lose.

    There are various types of conditional fee arrangement, but not all solicitors' firms are prepared to work on this basis.

    More information is available on our page about Paying for Legal Services.

    How much do legal services cost?

    Legal advice, like anything else you buy, costs money, but its value can be enormous. Charges vary between solicitors, and will depend on the expertise and experience of the individual solicitor as well as how complicated the work is. Before making a decision about which firm to use, you may want to 'shop around'. Decide on what sort of solicitor you need to speak to and get quotes from several. Many solicitors charge little or nothing for a short first interview so do ask if this service is available. However, price is not the only thing you have to consider. Above all, try to find a solicitor who you are comfortable with and whose advice you feel you understand.

    Fixed fees or hourly rates?

    Solicitors don't always charge a fixed fee for a particular job. The bill will often be worked out on an hourly basis, so the longer it takes, the more it costs. A solicitor must give you a cost estimate at the outset, usually at the first interview.

    If an hourly rate is quoted, you may want to agree a fixed spending limit. If the costs look likely to go over this limit your solicitor will contact you to warn you and get your agreement to continue.

    For further information see our page on Paying for Legal Services.

    Do I qualify for legal aid?

    You can find out whether or or not you are eligible for legal aid by contacting your nearest Citizens' Advice Bureau or Law Centre.

    Not all firms do legal aid work, so if you are eligible for this kind of funding you will need find a solicitor who can take your case. A list of firms who carry out legal aid work is available on Legal adviser finder.

    What is legal expenses insurance?

    Legal Expenses insurance is another term for Before The Event insurance.

    This type of insurance covers legal costs for certain types of claims.

    It is commonly associated with car insurance and household contents insurance. It is often added to these polices at no cost, or for a few pounds.

    If you have Legal Expenses insurance you should consider whether to use this rather than some other form of funding (such as a 'no win no fee' agreement). Your solicitor will advise you on this.

    Your employer, Trade Union, or any other body that you belong to (such as a sports club) may also have arranged insurance. If you believe you may be covered by such insurance you should talk to the appropriate body and take any relevant insurance documents when you go to see your solicitor.

  • How do I complain about government departments?

    Ombudsman schemes handle complaints which cannot not be resolved directly with the government department. Contact Government, Parliamentary and Health Service ombudsman's office at www.ombudsman.org.uk.

    Visit the main government website for information at www.direct.gov.uk.

    How do I make a complaint about the way my solicitor handled my case?

    In the first instance you should complain directly to your solicitor about the poor service you have received. All solicitors have a procedure for handling complaints.

    For more information about complaining, call the Solicitors Regulation Authority Contact Centre on 0370 606 2555 or email contactcentre@sra.org.uk.

    You can find more information about problems with solicitors on their website at www.sra.org.uk/consumers/problems.page.

    If you've complained to your solicitor about poor service or about their bill, and you aren't satisfied with your solicitor's response, you should contact the Legal Ombudsman on 0300 555 0333, who can help to resolve your complaint for you.

    How to complain about legal professionals who work for people with mental health problems

    The Law Society has developed guidance to assist those with mental health difficulties and those working in mental health to complain about the service or conduct of a solicitor or other legal representative.