Tips on choosing a family solicitor

JUNE 06, 2023

POSTED BY: Zoë Bloom

It’s daunting, we know. The moment you realise that you need specialist family law advice. Everyone you speak to has an opinion and a recommendation and the choice of who to instruct can seem overwhelming. Where do you start?

The first thing is that you don’t have to do it alone. Divorce coaches and consultants, whose primary purpose is to support you during separation, can also help match your needs and personality to a respected solicitor. They will probably recommend a number of potential solicitors and you can choose to speak to all or just a few of them. The recommendations will be people who are currently active in the field, well regarded by their peers and almost always results focused. Coaches are relatively inexpensive and will save you hours in research and money you might otherwise lose if you accidentally chose a less than brilliant solicitor.  

Once you have your shortlist it is sensible to limit yourself to speaking to three. You’ll find the process exhausting and emotional and almost certainly become fed up telling your story repeatedly. The initial conversations will feel intrusive particularly for people who err towards privacy.  

Reaching a decision can be difficult. Most solicitors have a USP and might be known for their aggressive communication styles, for being empathetic listeners or strategic masterminds and you may feel you want all of those things, and more. But what really matters is whether you like them. Whether you feel you can get on with them and that you will work well together. Get that chemistry right and the law will look after itself.  

Even if you like someone, you need to accept that the way they practice is inhibited and controlled by their firm and the policies adopted by the firm. This can impact how stressful the process is so you might want to ask the following questions:

1. Who will be working on your case? You want to know whether the person you are meeting will stay involved. Most of the time it makes sense for a partner to be assisted by more junior professionals. It helps to manage your fees and ensure there is someone available day to day, but who will that person be? Is there more than one of them? Can you meet them? Where does responsibility for your case lie?

2. What are everyone’s working hours? You should feel confident that someone will be available to pick things up at all times.

3. What is a normal response time? How can you schedule calls and meetings?

4. How busy is your chosen solicitor and do they have time for you? This is quite important and it’s tricky to get the balance right. You want someone who is busy as it shows they are in demand, but too busy and they might not have time for you. The answer to this question is much less important than the way in which it is answered. It should leave you feel confident that your needs will be met.

5. How often will you receive a fee quote? You might like to ask for an example of a quote so you can see how much detail is included. The way firms address this varies dramatically and you need to feel confident that the way the quotes are provided suit you.

6. Finally, it might be a good idea to ask who they find themselves acting against as this will give you a clear idea of where they fall in the market.

With all this it is important to remain self aware. If you’re someone who likes to know precisely how time is spent, then you need to see a detailed (dummy) cost estimate. If ball park is more your thing then it’s less important. If you know that you will need substantial support you need to be clear about availability or lines of support (or ideas around how to get you that support other ways). There’s no wrong or right answer or choice. What’s important is getting it right for you. And if you don't… can always change solicitor!