Depending on your situation and the amount you earn, instructing a solicitor may be a concern for you. Instructing a solicitor has the potential to be extremely expensive. However, if you contact firms which are regulated by the Solicitor’s Regulation Authority (SRA) they should have received extensive guidance from the SRA as to how best to make their fees as transparent as possible. Firms do not all charge the same amount, or adopt the same charging system so you should shop around to find the right firm for you before you commit to an agreement.
Depending on the legal service you require you may be able offered a fixed fee agreement – some firms offer fixed fee conveyancing, fixed fee Wills and more. This will enable you to easily budget the projected cost of the legal work and make a judgement as to whether you can afford the legal work. Other lawyers will offer an hourly rate. In this case, carefully research the amount of hours such work usually takes, and the hold ups it may be subject to. Again, you should then be able to work out an estimate of your outgoings. Make sure you do factor in a contingency, just in case the work takes longer than predicted. Finally, some solicitors offer a free enquiry service so you can talk to them about the services the offer and whether they are right for you.
If you do your research and you cannot afford a solicitor, all is not lost. You have other options available:
1. Legal Aid – Legal aid is provided in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland but the legal aid rules differ for Scotland and Northern Ireland. It helps people who often need legal representation the most, but cannot afford it, the support they need. Legal aid provides financial support to fund legal representation. It does not necessarily cover the full cost of legal work, but it can cover a significant proportion of your costs. Whether you are eligible for legal aid depends on your finances, you will have to complete a financial assessment to find out whether you are eligible for help. Individuals who are under 16 or under 18 and in full time education automatically qualify for legal aid if they require legal representation in a criminal case.
2. Pro Bono – when a solicitor works ‘pro bono’ they work for free. Some large firms dedicate a proportion of their time to pro bono work, other individuals who may be willing to represent you may be in training. To find solicitors who will agree to work pro bono you can search internet directories dedicated to helping get people in touch with the solicitors they need.
3. Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB) – the CAB give legal advice free of charge on common issues.