Solicitor walking in office corridor

Selecting the right divorce solicitor is not always straightforward. You might do so, for example, based on who ranks highest in Google, who is available to see you the soonest, or who is least expensive. Whilst this might navigate you in an initial direction, it does little to help with the four most crucial factors that are likely to influence whether the solicitor you have right for you.

You will need a solicitor who is:

  1. knowledgeable about the law and procedure, and able to apply it to your situation in your best interests,
  2. confident in the advice they give and the position they agree with you should be taken,
  3. aware of factors that might hinder sensible progress towards completion and has an ability to avoid those;
  4. empathetic and sensitive, but at times firm to bring about the outcome that you are looking for and do so with as limited impact as possible on your wallet and most importantly, immediate family and those around you.

Often, we are approached by clients who have already selected a solicitor to represent them and quickly (or slowly) realise that they are not the right fit. It might be that the client is never able to contact their solicitor or that they never get a response. It might be that they don’t understand the advice they have been given by the solicitor or are questioning whether that advice is right. If you are left with those questions, either the advice is likely wrong or very often it isn’t being provided in a clear enough way.

You should have confidence in your solicitor and if something doesn’t feel right it most likely isn’t. It is understandable in those circumstances that you are feeling let down and wish to change solicitors.

How to select a solicitor

I would always suggest that you need to come away from the first meeting confident in the abilities of the person you have seen. Industry rankings are usually a good first port of call to understand where you might begin. There are several out there, to include Legal 500 and Chambers and Partners, both of which are peer reviewed and stand up to scrutiny. Other journals and directories are available, however some of these do have to be taken with a pinch of salt, since they are not peer reviewed and in some cases reviews can be left by the solicitors themselves on themselves.

When to change solicitors

As with many things in life, the longer you delay the decision, the harder and more problematic the change over can be. At its most extreme, if you delay making the change until immediately before a final hearing for example, there is going to be little that can be done to correct the direction of your case or mishaps/misrepresentation that might have been made along the way. Hitherto neglected arguments may be difficult to appropriately prime and run in such a short time and, whilst you might have a bit more confidence with your solicitor going into the final stage of your case, its direction will be harder to correct. The best advice is therefore always going to be to make that change as soon as possible. Clearly, you do not want to make it prematurely if you are still questioning whether your existing solicitor is the right fit, however many solicitors offer fixed-fee no obligation meetings, during which you can better understand whether that solicitor is the right person you are looking for, in terms of confidence, knowledge, rapport and any other factors that you are looking for.

How easy is it to transfer my file?

The answer to this question largely depends on the systems your existing solicitor has in place. Many solicitors can transfer their files over to us electronically and within an extremely short period of time. This allows us to pick up the case from where they left off fairly immediately. Some solicitors have hardcopy files or will perhaps not have the resources needed to get your file over to us as quickly as we would like. Either way, it is not your problem – we will press and push for the file to come in and pick it up as soon as it arrives.

What to do first

If you are unhappy with your existing solicitor and are looking to come across to us for help, the best suggestion would be to first call us to arrange a meeting when we can talk through the issues, and you can consider whether we offer a better alternative to your existing solicitor. If, following that meeting, you are eager to proceed and make the change we can handle things from you from there.

Divorce is often once-in-a-lifetime, and it is important that you find the right fit. If you feel the change is needed, I would urge you to make it and not regret that you haven’t.

Andrew Barton heads up the family team at Stephens Scown, which is top rated in both Legal 500 and Chambers and Partners, the only family team top rated in both directories in both Devon and Cornwall. If you would like help and support please contact our family team who will be happy to help.