When do I need a solicitor?

First published 25 October 2017 • Updated 02 July 2019

Why do I need a solicitor?

Many situations may require you to instruct a solicitor, from buying a home to obtaining a divorce. These are typically stressful events, so it’s important to find a solicitor with whom you can build a good relationship. More broadly, a solicitor is usually your first point of contact in any legal proceedings, and may also act as your legal representative (sometimes in combination with a barrister).

A fully qualified solicitor can provide you with the expert knowledge of the law and professional experience needed to tackle some of the most important decisions in life, relating to:

When can my solicitor help?

Your solicitor can perform vital legal services and offer valuable support in many different circumstances. Here are the main areas.

Your home

  • Buying and selling property (conveyancing)
  • Buying to let
  • Disputes with landlords
  • Obtaining planning permission (or objecting to it)

Your family

Setting up a business

  • Employer / employee disputes
  • Intellectual property disputes
  • Insolvency and bankruptcy

Your life

How much will my solicitor cost?

Your solicitor’s fees will depend on what work you instruct them to do. For routine work such as conveyancing and will writing, the costs can be fairly predictable. However, when a solicitor performs ongoing work the costs can quickly escalate. You should therefore discuss fees well in advance before instructing your solicitor, and keep a careful track of them throughout the process.

Here are some typical fees for common solicitor work (ballpark figures only).

Work

Other details?

Typical solicitor fee

Conveyancing

 

£850 to £1,500

Will writing

 

£100 to £300

Lasting power of attorney

 

£400 to £600

Divorce

Requested by you; uncontested

£1,500

 

Requested by your spouse; uncontested

£600

 

Contested in court

£3,000 - £5,000+

How do I choose a good solicitor?

There so many different areas of law that many solicitors focus on a particular one, such as conveyancing, divorce or legal disputes. You should therefor take particular care when choosing a solicitor, so that you find one with the necessary expertise for your circumstances. Don’t assume that the solicitor who helped you buy your house will be equally good at handling your divorce (although they may be). Always check their qualifications and ask them to tell you about their relevant experience – it’s your right as a customer.

Your first meeting

When you’ve found a solicitor who appears suited to your needs, you should meet them in person if possible to confirm that they are a good choice.

Solicitors should have a practising certificate to confirm they are fully qualified and insured. Most display these in their offices. You can also check with the Solicitors Regulatory Authority to make doubly sure.

In your first meeting, talk about the process ahead of you and ask them to give you a clear idea of what will be involved at every stage. Ask about timeframes, too, so you have an expectation of when each stage of the process may be completed.

Also be sure to find out what they need from you (e.g. documentation) and when they need it by. You don’t want the process to be delayed because the solicitor is waiting for you to send them something. This is one of the reasons why regular communication with your solicitor is important.

Finally, make sure you and your solicitor have a good rapport. Even simple legal proceedings can be stressful, but having a friendly professional at your side can make everything a lot easier.

About the author
Nick Green
Nick Green
Nick Green is a financial journalist writing for Unbiased.co.uk, the site that has helped over 10 million people find financial, business and legal advice. Nick has been writing professionally on money and business topics for over 15 years, and has previously written for leading accountancy firms PKF and BDO.