Public Information

Manchester Law Society is dedicated to promoting the legal profession and facilitating members of the public with any help that they may need.

Manchester Law Society is an independent local law society and is not part of The National Law Society of England and Wales.

The Society does not provide any services or advice for members of the public. The following information, however, may be useful.

Using a solicitor
Most of us need expert legal help at some time in our lives. Some of the most common issues are to do with buying a house, getting a divorce or making a will. But you might also need help if you are setting up home with your partner, starting your own business or organising an elderly person’s finances.

The law can be complicated so it’s important to get the best advice you can. Solicitors are the experts when it comes to the law and how it affects you. So for legal advice that you can rely on, contact a solicitor.

Choosing a solicitor
Finding a list of solicitors in your area is easy using the national Law Society’s find a solicitor database or you can contact the National Law Society helpline or website. Call 0207 242 1222 or visit www.lawsociety.org.uk/findasolicitor to start your search, but think carefully about what type of service you need. Here are just some of the issues you should consider:

What sort of legal help do I need?
A firm of solicitors may offer services in a wide range of legal subjects, although more and more individual solicitors are specialising in only one or two subjects. If your usual firm of solicitors cannot help you with all your needs, they will be happy to refer you to another solicitor. Or, if you prefer, they can get the advice of a specialist on your behalf.

How can I be sure they are qualified to help me?
All solicitors in private practice must hold a practising certificate issued by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, the independent regulator (set up by the Law Society) which sets the rules that all solicitors must follow. This guarantees that the solicitor is qualified to practise and has insurance to protect you if anything goes wrong. If you want to be sure, ask to see the certificate (which should be on display in your solicitor’s office) or phone the Solicitors Regulation Authority on 0207 424 1222 to check.

You can also ask your solicitor whether the firm has received any quality awards to prove that they have good standards of practice in place. If the firm has received the ‘Lexcel’ quality award, the national Law Society will be able to confirm this (you can e-mail them at lexcel@lawsociety.org.uk or phone 0207 424 1222).

Individual solicitors might also be members of ‘quality-assured accreditation schemes’ that cover a number of legal subjects. To join one of these schemes, solicitors must show that they have considerable specialist knowledge and expert skills. You can find details of solicitors in your area who are members of one of these schemes by visiting the ‘Find a Solicitor’ area of the Law Society website, www.lawsociety.org.uk. You can get more details of particular schemes from the website.

Where is the firm based?
Where a firm is based is obviously an issue of convenience, particularly for elderly, sick or disabled people. Do you need to use a firm that is close to where you live? If so, this will narrow your search. Some solicitors are happy to visit you at home, so if you find travelling difficult, it’s well worth asking about this.

Do they do legal aid work?
If you are on a low income or receiving benefits, you may be eligible for legal aid. You can find this out by contacting your nearest citizens’ advice bureau or law centre. As some solicitors’ firms do legal aid work and some do not, if you are eligible for this kind of funding, you will need to narrow your search to firms that do. You can find solicitors that do legal aid work on the Community Legal Service website at http://legaladviserfinder.justice.gov.uk/AdviserSearch.do

Legal aid is managed by the Legal Services Commission, which makes sure that all solicitors’ firms that offer legal aid meet high quality standards.

Do they work on a conditional fee basis?
For certain types of case, including personal injury, your solicitor may be prepared to work on a conditional fee basis. This is more commonly known as a ‘no win, no fee’ arrangement. If you win the case, your solicitor’s fees will usually be paid by the other side. If you lose, you do not have to pay your solicitor’s fees. You may be asked to take out an insurance policy to pay for the other side’s costs if you lose. There are various types of conditional fee arrangement, but not all solicitors’ firms take cases on this basis.

Will they be sympathetic?
If you need to see a solicitor about a personal matter, such as a relationship breakdown, you will want to choose someone who makes you feel comfortable. Most solicitors will be sympathetic and understanding if you are distressed, but you may prefer to deal with someone who is the same sex as you. Don’t be afraid to say that this is what you want.

Will they speak my language?
If English is not your first language, you should mention this when you are trying to find a solicitor. If you tell them in good time, a firm can arrange for an interpreter to be present at your meetings.

Making an appointment
Once you have found a suitable firm, you need to make an appointment. Let them know if there’s anyone you need to bring to the meeting with you. Ask if you should bring any documents with you, such as proof of identity or income.

Be prepared
The more preparation you do before the meeting, the more you’ll get out of it. Make a list of the main points you want to make or the questions you want to ask. Get together any paperwork that is relevant and put it in some kind of order so you can refer to it quickly. This will make it quicker and easier for your solicitor to understand your circumstances and give you proper advice.

At the meeting
Check how long the meeting will last so that you don’t suddenly find that ‘time is up’ before you’ve made all your points. Have your notes in front of you, tick off each point as it is covered, and don’t be afraid to ask if anything is said that you do not understand.

Finally, ask your solicitor to send you a letter after the meeting to summarise the advice you’ve been given, and confirm the following details.
That he or she has taken on the work.
The name of the person in the firm who will be dealing with your case day to day.
The amount of time the firm will need to see your case through.
An estimate of costs and any agreed spending limit.
Any more information you need to supply.

Solicitors Charges
Solicitors Legal advice, like anything else you buy, costs money, but its value can be enormous. Charges vary between solicitors, and will depend on the expertise and experience of the individual solicitor as well as how complicated the work is. Before making a decision about which firm to use, you may want to ‘shop around’. Decide on what sort of solicitor you need to speak to and get quotes from several. Many solicitors charge little or nothing for a short first interview. It is worth asking. However, price is not the only thing you have to consider. Above all, try to find a solicitor who you are comfortable with and whose advice you feel you understand.

Fixed or hourly rate?
Solicitors don’t always charge a fixed fee for a particular job. The bill will often be worked out on an hourly basis, so the longer it takes, the more it costs. A solicitor must give you a cost estimate at the outset, usually at the first interview.

If an hourly rate is quoted, you may want to agree a fixed spending limit. If the costs look likely to go over this limit your solicitor will contact you to warn you and get your agreement to continue.

Keeping in touch
Once you have appointed a solicitor, they must consult you at every important stage, to check how you want to proceed. Similarly, you need to tell your solicitor about any changes to your personal circumstances which could affect the case. This includes any changes in your financial position which could alter your eligibility for legal aid.

To obtain more information on using solicitors, common legal problems, paying for legal services and other information please click here for the Law Society website.

Find a Public Notary
The function of notaries is to prepare and certify the execution of legal documents for use nationally and internationally. Visit www.thenotariessociety.org.uk for further information.

Free Legal Advice 
The Citizens Advice Bureau service helps people resolve their legal, money and other problems by providing free information and advice from 3,300 locations, and by influencing policymakers. It has trained volunteers who can deal with benefits, debt, employment, housing and legal issues. The national Citizens Advice Bureau contact details are as follows:

Tel: 0844 826 9695 (advice line)
Web: www.citizensadvice.org.uk

Law Centres
Law Centres are not-for-profit legal practices providing free legal advice and representation to disadvantaged people.
Law Centres specialise in social welfare law which includes: welfare rights; disability rights; immigration and asylum; housing and homelessness; employment rights; community care; and all forms of discrimination. Other areas of work vary according to local need and may include public law, mental health, education rights and young people and children’s rights. Each Law Centre employs solicitors, barristers, legal advisers and community workers. There are 56 Law Centres in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Contact details for the National Law Centres Federation are as follows: Tavis House, 1-6 Tavistock Square, London WC1H 9NA
Tel: 020 3637 1330

For a list of Law Centres in the Greater Manchester area please click here.

Manchester Free Legal Help
Manchester Free Legal help, a new and innovative pro bono project, has opened on the 2nd floor of the Manchester Civil Justice Centre.
The Centre is a unique partnership between The University of Manchester’s School of Law and Manchester Legal Services, with the support of LawWorks and Manchester Law Society. The project aims to provide assistance to those who need legal advice and support but are unable to afford it, or are not entitled to Legal Aid. We do this by linking clients with the most appropriate support service, or pro bono lawyer, for legal support and advice and in some cases representation.  They aim to enhance existing services by providing a comprehensive network and a clear and effective pathway between pro bono providers. The Centre aims to assist clients in taking the shortest route to the most appropriate advice for their needs, thus saving time and resources.

We understand the impact of legal aid cuts on both clients and the legal profession, and accept that our service should not be seen as a substitute for LSC funding.  Their project is committed to ensuring litigants in person receive access to justice.

We have been delighted with the support we have received from local Law Firms, Chambers, the Judiciary and other voluntary agencies. Manchester Free Legal Help are still actively looking to involve as many volunteer lawyers as possible to assist in providing free legal advice and support.

This could be through providing brief advice to clients by email or telephone, or by acting as a referral point to send clients for face-to-face advice sessions. The level of commitment is entirely up to the individual and any support in the project is greatly appreciated.

Volunteering at Manchester Free Legal Help could enhance law firms’ corporate responsibility objectives.  In addition it could give trainees and junior lawyers the opportunity to gain valuable skills through interaction with clients.

If you are interested in finding out more, or supporting this project, please contact:
Dinah Crystal OBE, Centre Director
dinah.crystal@manchester.ac.uk
or Clare Johnson, Project Coordinator / Alex Kelly, Project Intern, by emailing freelegalhelp@manchester.ac.uk or call 0161 240 5034

Register of firms which no longer exist
A comprehensive list of out-of-practice firms is kept by the National Law Society of England and Wales in London.
Contact 0370 606 2555 and ask for the Records Department

Looking for a will
You will need to contact the Probate Registry at the following address:
The Record Keeper, Principal Registry of the Family Division, First Avenue House, 42 – 49 High Holborn, London, WC1V 6NP
Tel 020 7421 8509
Web: http://www.hmcourts-service.gov.uk/index.htm

For up to date information on cost and what details you need to have, please contact the Probate Registry direct. The Probate Service does not hold any records or documents prior to 1858. If you require information about these, you are recommended to contact:
The National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 4DU
Tel: +44 (0) 020 8392 5330

Complaints 

Against solicitors
If you are dissatisfied with the service of your solicitor, you should first put the complaint in writing to solicitors’ firm. We do not perform a regulatory function in respect of our members but as a local law society we do provide a conciliation service (within the Manchester area only) for our members and their firms for complaints made by clients.

If you wish to complain about your solicitor you must put your complaint in writing to the Complaints Partner or to the Complaints Manager at the solicitor’s firm where an “in-house” complaints procedure should be followed. If you have a copy of a formal engagement letter or an information sheet provided at the outset of the work that your solicitor undertook, you should refer to this, as it should contain details of their complaints procedure. Keep copies of all the correspondence and allow 14 days for a reply.

If you need advice regarding complaints or if you feel that conciliation will not provide a suitable means of dealing with your complaint, you should contact the Legal Ombudsman on 0300 555 0333, or visit their website www.legalcomplaints.org.uk or alternatively write to them at Legal Ombudsman, PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton, WV1 9WJ

Complaints against barristers
The Bar Council is the official representative body for barristers. For general enquiries, please telephone 0207 242 0082. If you have a complaint against a barrister, please contact their Complaints Dept. on 0207 440 4000.

Complaints against legal executives
The Institute of Legal Executives (ILEX) is the official body for qualified Legal Executives and can deal with complaints against them. Their website is at www.ilex.org.uk

Other useful links and contacts:

The National Law Society
The National Law Society is the professional body for solicitors in England and Wales. It serves society by working to improve access to the law providing services and support for solicitors and setting the standards that underpin the profession’s reputation as the best independent professional advisers. Visit their site at www.thelawsociety.org.uk

Trust and Estate Practitioners
The Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) is the professional body for the trust and estate profession worldwide. STEP members are experts from the legal, accounting and banking professions and their website can help you to find an expert in your area.
Visit their website at www.step.org

The Land Registry
The Land Registry website provides information about the Land Registry, forms for lodging applications, and publications offering guidance on a range of subjects. They are also able to provide a range of additional facilities for their customers who have particular needs.
The website also offers a property price database where you can find average prices of residential property in England and Wales.
Visit their website at www.landreg.gov.uk

For information about Land Registration in Scotland please visit the Registers of Scotland.

Please note that by clicking any of the links you will be leaving this website. Manchester Law Society does not accept responsibility for the content of external websites.

If you require further information please contact Manchester Law Society using the contact form.