All these are possible and helpful but it’s best to consider the following:
1. Look up the firm and profile of the Family solicitor. Are they experienced? Are they Resolution or Law Society Family Law Panel accredited? Do they specialise? If you have complex financials, for example, you don’t need a Children’s cases specialist.
2. How to contact the solicitor? If you have the name of a contact, you can get in touch directly. A simple phone call should give you an idea whether the solicitor is suitable. If you have been recommended to a firm, ask to speak to a partner who should be able to direct you to the best person.
3. If you’re looking for a junior Family solicitor to reduce costs, ask who supervises them and if you can meet the supervising partner. A junior solicitor costs less and may have the necessary expertise but it’s good to know there’s an expert in the background.
4. Don’t be embarrassed to ask about costs at the onset. Most solicitors will agree a fixed fee for the initial appointment but make sure it includes follow-up written advice as well – there’s a lot to take in! Going forwards you will need the hourly rate of all fee earners who will be working on your matter and an overall itemised estimate for the whole case. How much is charged for short emails in and out, for example?
5. Ask for monthly billing and whether there are fixed fees to cover any part of the work. If you are unhappy with the billing at any time, ask to see the time recording printouts.
6. Ask whether the firm also specialises in other areas of law. Divorce settlements can involve property issues, tax issues, trusts and wills. You don’t want to have to shop around for help with these as well, so a firm with other specialists that also cover related matters can be very useful.
7. Don’t make a final decision until after the initial appointment. Did you leave the office confident that this is the right person to steer you through? If you’re not sure, consider seeing someone else as well. It’s expensive but making the wrong choice could cost you dearly in the long run.
Sue Harlow heads Hanne & Co’s Family and Divorce Law team. If you want advice on add backs, divorce financial settlement or any related matter call her on 020 7228 0017.