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FAQs for people affected by the fire in Grenfell Tower

Many - if not all - of the people affected by the fire in Grenfell Tower are having to deal with very difficult legal issues. It is important to get the best advice you can, from legal professionals you can trust. We answer some of the questions about lawyers and legal fees that people have asked.

How should I choose a lawyer?

You should choose your own lawyer. You should not be pressured into choosing a lawyer by someone else.

The Law Society can't recommend a lawyer, but we can help you make an informed decision. You can also ask a lawyer as many questions as you like to help you decide whether to use them.

Your lawyer may work in a law firm, a charity or a community organisation.

Before you use any lawyer, we recommend you:

  • check their qualifications and record by calling the relevant regulator (for solicitors, contact the Solicitors Regulation Authority on 0370 606 2555
  • ask whether the law firm/charity/community organisation has the expertise and experience to help with your legal problem(s)
  • check their website to find out what kind of legal issues they can help with - it should also show their registered address and contact details
  • check they have insurance, in case something goes wrong.

If you would like to search for a solicitor, please visit the Find A Solicitor website.

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Someone or some people have chosen a lawyer for me - do I have to use that lawyer?

You should choose your own lawyer. It is wrong for anyone to make that decision for you. You should never be pressured into using a lawyer. It is your decision.

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A lawyer has contacted me or cold-called me. Is this allowed?

A solicitor is not allowed to contact you if you have not contacted them first. If they do, you can complain to the Solicitors Regulation Authority

Claims management companies are allowed to cold-call, but if they cause a nuisance you can complain to the Claims Management Regulator or the Legal Ombudsman.

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Do I have to use a lawyer suggested by my family liaison officer (FLO) or a police officer?

No, you don’t have to. An FLO or police officer should not be giving this type of advice.

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If I talk to a lawyer, are they now working for (representing) me?

You can talk to a lawyer before choosing them to work for you. A lawyer does not represent you until you 'instruct' them. To do this, you have to tell them you want them to represent you. If you are not sure, then tell the lawyer you do not want them to represent you.

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How do I ‘instruct’ a lawyer?

You can instruct a lawyer by telling them that you want them to represent you in person or in writing (this can be by email or on paper).

When you have instructed a lawyer they should send you a ‘client care letter’ that explains what they will and will not do for you. It sets out the terms and conditions of your agreement and confirms that you (the client) have entered into a relationship with the firm/organisation. A client care letter is legally binding.

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I am part of a group instructing a lawyer - can I still have my own lawyer?

Yes, you can have your own lawyer as well.

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Will one law firm do everything for me?

They may, but you can instruct different lawyers for different legal issues. Your lawyer should explain exactly what type of law they are expert in (for example: housing, inquest, public inquiry, immigration, employment). Some lawyers work in all of these areas and some may only work in one or two.

You can choose which lawyer or law firm you want to work for you for each legal issue. Your lawyer may work in a law firm, a charity or a community organisation.

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I have instructed a law firm for my housing needs. Can another law firm represent me during the Public Inquiry?

Yes, you can choose a different lawyer to represent you for the Public Inquiry.

The government has said there will be public funding for legal representation at the enquiry for people affected by the fire. They have not yet explained how this will work.

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I have signed a contract with a law firm. Can I change my mind?

Yes. If you are unhappy with the lawyer or firm you have chosen, or feel you were forced or misled into using them, you can change your mind. You should speak to the lawyer first so they have the chance to sort out your concern.

The lawyer should explain how you can end your contract with them. You can also ask another lawyer to look at the contract and advise you what to do.

Depending on your contract with your lawyer and how much work they have done, there may be costs for changing your lawyer (particularly if you have a 'conditional fee agreement'). Each situation will be different depending on the agreement between you and your lawyer. Your lawyer should explain this to you and you can also ask another lawyer to look at the contract and advise you what to do.

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I have signed a contract with a lawyer, but I did not understand it or I was pressured - what can I do?

No-one should make you use a particular lawyer. If a lawyer has done this, you can complain. You can find another lawyer to look at the contract and advise you what to do.

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What is pro bono?

Pro bono means professional work undertaken voluntarily and without payment. You should receive the same quality of advice and legal protection as you would if you were a paying client, because the lawyer has volunteered to do the work for free.

When you first meet your lawyer he or she should explain to you what work they will be able to do for you for free and what they can't. After the meeting, they will send you a letter with this information, but you can also call them if you have any questions or are unsure about anything.

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What is legal aid?

Legal aid is government funding that can help people meet the costs of legal services. A legal aid funded lawyer is paid by the government but represents you. The work they do is independent from the government, and they have a professional duty to work in your best interest. The fees for the work are fixed by the government, and are about one quarter of the lawyer's usual rate.

A lawyer who specialises in legal aid can tell you if the government will pay for your legal advice. They will also apply for the funding.

You can find a lawyer who offers help under the legal aid scheme.

Any emergency payment you received after the fire will not affect your entitlement to legal aid. Other savings or income may affect your entitlement. You can use this calculator to find out if you are likely to qualify for legal aid.

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What is legal professional privilege?

A protection that means the information a client shares with his or her lawyer in confidence should never be revealed without the client's consent.

Legal professional privilege only applies between a client and his or her solicitor or barrister. It does not apply to other legal professionals.

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What human rights do the Grenfell community have?

The events surrounding the fire and the following treatment of survivors, their families and the community raise serious human rights and equality questions around issues such as the right to life, the right to adequate housing, access to justice, and the rights of children and disabled people.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has been working hard to highlight the human rights and equality dimension of the Grenfell Tower fire. More information on this work is available from the Commission’s website.

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Holding McKenzie Friends and other unqualified advisers to account
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