How To Find Legal Help. Hello everyone, I hope you are well. In today’s post, I will be sharing a guest post from Amanda Hamilton. Amanda is the CEO of the National Association of Licenced Paralegals (NALP). Amanda will share options available to you or your business that need legal help. Although most people think of turning to a solicitor for use, other options exist. Some may be more appropriate depending on the necessary support, and some are considerably cheaper than a solicitor.
So, what are the options, and where do you look?
How To Find Legal Help
The most problematic element when things go wrong is finding the appropriate help and assistance. When we have incidents in the home, such as a leaky pipe or electrical issues, we call either a plumber or electrician. Finding skilled tradespeople seems simple because owning a property is a common requirement. We can get referrals from friends, relatives, or neighbours. However, when it comes to legal matters, most of us are not knowledgeable about who to turn to, as it is not every day.
Of course, when we buy a property, we engage a solicitor or licensed conveyance. And we may also utilise the services of a Will writer or Solicitor to draft a Will. But what of other kinds of legal requirements?
Consumers generally think of turning to a solicitor for help. But where do you find the appropriate person, and can you afford the fees?
The answer to the former is that you can locate a solicitor by going on the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority (SRA) website and checking the Solicitor’s register. The answer to the latter question is something only you can decide. Solicitors charge anywhere between £250 -£500 per hour.
However, if the answer to the latter is that you cannot afford solicitors’ fees, then you should look elsewhere for assistance. For example, your house or car insurance could include free legal aid. It will be a question of whether the legal assistance insurance element covers what you need. In addition, you may also find that any professional or business membership may also include free legal advice, so it’s worth checking.
Search For A Licensed Paralegal
Another less costly avenue to finding help and assistance is to search for a licensed paralegal. While paralegals are not solicitors, and the paralegal sector is not regulated in the same way as solicitors. They are nevertheless trained and educated in law, legal practice, and procedures. Some may even be retired solicitors or non-practising barristers.
The National Paralegal Register is a place to search for such individuals. Generally, paralegals will charge an acceptable hourly rate (£30-£80 per hour, depending on what work is required). Please make sure that you check the credentials of any potential paralegal that you may instruct to ensure that they are affiliated with an appropriate membership organisation. Such as NALP (National Association of Licensed Paralegals).
Paralegals cannot undertake ‘reserved activities’ such as conducting litigation and having an automatic right of audience. This means they cannot receive or send correspondence (as an agent) to or from the court or the other party on their client’s behalf. Nor can they represent you in court and advocate on your behalf without special permission from the court.
Nevertheless, they can draft letters and assist in completing forms for their clients as long as they sign and submit them. They can also guide you through the court process and advise if you decide to represent yourself as a litigant in person (LIP).
In addition to this, there are ‘pro-bono’ units. These can be found all around the country and are made up of legal professionals (solicitors, barristers, paralegals) who offer their services for free. Citizens Advice Bureau and legal centres are also included among these.
Instruct A Barrister Directly
Another way to reduce costs, if the necessity of going to court is imminent, is to instruct a barrister directly. Barristers are specialist advocates. In other words, they will not only be able to give you a good assessment of the merit or otherwise of your case, but they can appear in court if necessary to represent you.
Traditionally, solicitors could only instruct barristers if the client’s case warranted a specialised overview and if they were required to appear in court. The client would therefore have to pay two sets of fees. Now, consumers can go directly to a barrister if registered as public access or direct access barristers. It is just a question of searching online and finding pages of barristers to suit the circumstances. Barristers generally charge from £150 – £300 per hour for a junior and £350 – £600 per hour for a senior.
If you are having trouble locating a barrister, you could check their ‘chambers’ status. Every barrister has to work from a set of rooms, and each section has a reputation in a particular area of law. As with most solicitors’ law firms, barristers’ chambers also have a ranking system.
Before any dispute gets too far and you cannot reach a settlement with your opponent on your own, you may like to consider mediation. Professional mediators assist and guide parties to resolve. A mediator may charge a fee which, on the face of it, could sound costly. But it is far less expensive (and far less stressful) than going to court. So avoiding the latter is a definite benefit.
Finally, there is a website online called ‘Legal Choices’ which sets out the type of lawyers, both regulated and unregulated, what work they can assist you with and how to make an informed choice.
I hope you enjoyed that.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Amanda Hamilton is the Chief Executive of the National Association of Licensed Paralegals (NALP). A non-profit membership body and the only paralegal body recognised as an awarding organisation by Ofqual (the regulator of qualifications in England). Through its Centres around the country, accredited and admitted professional paralegal qualifications are offered for those looking for a career as a paralegal experienced.