What to expect when using a solicitor
Solicitors are legal experts and can help you with legal issues such as:
- buying a house
- getting a divorce
- making a will
- starting your own business
- give you legal advice
- tell you what your legal rights are
- help you resolve your problem
- may represent you (for example in a tribunal)
All solicitors are qualified to practice law. However, they usually specialise in one or two areas of law. For example, if you’re splitting up from your partner, you may need a family law solicitor.
Finding a solicitor
To find a solicitor near you, you can use our free Find a Solicitor website.
It has information on solicitors in England and Wales and lists what kind of work they do.
At your first appointment, your solicitor should make you aware of:
- the likely cost of the case
- how they’ll charge for their service
Your solicitor must keep you updated on costs throughout your case and give you a clear bill detailing the work completed and the amount charged.
Getting help with legal costs
Legal aid can help you pay for legal advice and is available in some areas of legal work. You may qualify for legal aid if you’re on a low income or receiving certain benefits. You should check with your solicitor if they offer legal aid work.
If you cannot get legal aid, some solicitors or firms may act for you on a pro bono basis. Pro bono is free legal work done by some solicitors or firms for those who cannot afford legal help.
Choosing a solicitor
You should choose a solicitor who meets your needs and preferences, and who you feel comfortable dealing with. You can speak to more than one solicitor before appointing one to act for you. If you choose a solicitor you’re unhappy with, you can change your solicitor if you think it’s necessary.
When you have chosen your solicitor, you’ll need to make an appointment.
Before the appointment
Before you meet your solicitor, you should:
- ask if you need to bring any documents
- prepare a list of questions you want to ask
- tell them if you’re bringing someone with you to the meeting
- tell them if you have a disability and need a reasonable adjustment
During the appointment
During the appointment your solicitor should:
- ask you to explain why you want legal advice and what you hope to achieve
- ask about the issues you know, or think, are involved
- explain the ways you can proceed and their advantages and disadvantages
- make you aware of the cost and time involved in your case
- refer you to a specialist for areas outside their knowledge
- identify what should be addressed urgently and any further documentation they need
- tell you what the next steps are, if applicable
After the appointment
If you’ve asked the solicitor to act for you, they’ll follow up with a client care letter. The client care letter should set out:
- your solicitor has been instructed to act on your behalf
- the issues discussed in the appointment and next steps
- who will be dealing with your case on a day to day basis
- the estimated cost, agreed spending limit (if any) and timings
- details of how your solicitor is regulated and how you can complain
You should keep your solicitor updated about any changes to your personal or financial circumstances that may affect your case. For example, changes to your financial position may affect your entitlement to legal aid.
If you’re a new client, or you haven’t used your solicitor for a while, your solicitor must carry out identification checks. These are also known as money laundering checks. They help prevent money laundering by criminals targeting law firms.
As part of these checks, you’ll need to show your solicitor, or someone acting on their behalf, some personal documents. These could include:
- current signed passport
- photo-card driving licence
- benefit book
- proof of address – recent gas, electricity or other household bills
If you do not have these documents, you should ask your solicitor for advice on how to verify your identity.
Making a complaint
If you’re not satisfied with how your solicitor handled your case or with their bill, you can complain.
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