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If you’re an ordinary hard working individual and you have an accident, need to buy a house or are served with proceedings, you’re left with a confusing choice.  You need to find a Solicitor perhaps for the first time.  It must feel like finding a good doctor in a new city.  You don’t know one doctor from the other and your friends and colleagues have always used the same doctor so they can’t compare one to another.  The choice looks impossible.  So you look them up on the internet and decide whether you like the look or the sound of them and make an appointment with the one you like the sound of or who is closest to you.  Or you ring around for a few quotes and go with the one who is cheapest or who rings you back and has a personality.  It really sounds like a stab in the dark.  But it needn’t be.  Read on.

Whether you’re involved in an accident, buying a house, looking for someone to defend you in a business dispute, or something else, there’s a different area or specialisation involved.  If you have an accident, you need a personal injuries Solicitor.  If you’re buying or selling property you need a conveyancing or property Solicitor.  If you’re being sued in a business context you need a commercial litigation Solicitor.  If you’re making a will or seeking to administer a deceased loved one’s estate, you need a probate Solicitor.  If you’re looking for a divorce, you need a family law Solicitor.  And so on and so on.  The first thing to do is to be clear what type of Solicitor you need.  Google it and get the language right.  There’s no point going to someone who specialises in divorces if you want someone to defend you for a road traffic offence.  So this is finding the right expert for your legal needs.  Match the Solicitor to the piece of work you have.  Don’t get a property expert if you have an injury.  Check the Solicitor’s website and make sure they cover the area you have a need for.

Almost all Solicitors practicing in a particular type of law will be very competent in that area.  Much like a painter, they’ll all paint the wall white if that’s the job.  They’ll be excellent at selecting the right paint and brush, prepping the wall and getting the finish just right.  The question then becomes, will they do the piece of work when and how you need them to do it (insofar as this is possible).  This question is all about communication.  Do they listen to you?  You’re the boss so they need to find out what you need (and you need to tell them).  Will they take your calls or ring you back?  If they’re too busy to talk to you or meet with you, they may not get your wall painted the way you want or when you want.  Make sure your Solicitor is contactable. You need your Solicitor to be accessible.  Find someone who will return your calls.  Otherwise, how will they know what you need?    If they don’t talk to you, they may not be the right fit.

A Solicitor’s work isn’t always as understandable as painting a wall.  We’ve all painted a wall at some stage, but you may never have sued someone or bought a house so you will need to understand what’s involved.  You’ll need to receive guidance as well as being clear as to what you want to achieve.  Your Solicitor will have to explain the process that they’re engaging in to you so that you understand it.  This sounds simple, but there’s a tendency amongst Solicitors (and many other professionals) to use legal words and jargon and to avoid answering straightforward questions so that they can’t be wrong.  This should become obvious during your first meeting.  Look for someone who you can understand.  If you’re confused, say so and given them a chance to explain.  If they don’t explain in a way you can understand, you may not have found the right Solicitor yet.

Once you’ve found a suitable expert, who is accessible, listens to you and returns your calls and who explains the process involved in a way you understand, then the last thing you need to discuss is price.  What does it cost for the piece of work you need done?  In most cases this shouldn’t be a difficult question to answer.  If the Solicitor can’t or won’t answer it, ask why.  There may be a complicating factor or a piece of information they’re missing.  Fill in the blank and see if you can get clarity.  Unless it’s a particularly complicated job, wait for clarity before you commit.

To summarise, choose a Solicitor with experience or expertise in the area of work you need done.  If a Solicitor doesn’t return your calls when you’re making a new enquiry, it doesn’t bode well for a few months into the project when you’re tied in with them.  Personal Touch.  Get someone who will talk to you.  Accessible.  If a Solicitor can’t explain the process or procedure involved in the project to you, then you won’t be able to keep on top of it and won’t understand what’s happening.  Understand the process or you’ll end up with a roadblock you didn’t know to expect.  Clarity.  Finally, you should know the Solicitor’s fee structure.  If they don’t have one, it should raise concerns.  If there’s a missing piece of information needed to give a proper quote, then fill in the blank and get some certainty.  Transparent Fee structure.

Once your chosen Solicitor meets the above criteria, you should be a good fit.  Not everyone rubs well together and some people simply click, but following these guidelines should give you a good chance that your Solicitor will be one who works well with you.

Here at Hogan Dowling McNamara Solicitors, we focus on our individual areas of expertise – whether personal injuries, litigation, property, business law or otherwise – and we have a simple touch point for all our staff and customers.  We call it PACT:

  • Personal touch
  • Accessible
  • Clarity in all communications
  • Transparent fee structure

Once you’ve found your Solicitor, the task becomes, how to make the best use of your Solicitor.  In other words, how do you engage with your Solicitor to obtain the best result?

What makes a good client?

Well, this too is not a deep mystery.  Your job as the client is to be clear in terms of what you need to be done.  You should explain your timeframes and any pinch points that are involved.  For example, you may be buying a house and your current lease might be running out in six weeks.  While your Solicitor can’t control the other side in a transaction, if they don’t know about your deadline, they can’t try to help manage it.  If you’re injured, there’s no point telling nobody about the other pain in your chest that you’ve been ignoring, or the panic attacks you get every time you get into a car.  Be clear.  Clarity.

You need to understand the process and listen to your Solicitor’s advice.  If your Solicitor asks you for something, it’s because he or she needs it.  Usually, they can’t take the next step in the case or transaction without it.  Whether that’s a PPS number, a P60 or some other document or piece of information, get them what they ask for.  If they say you need to put life assurance in place, then put it in place.  There’s no point asking why you can’t draw down your house loan if life assurance is a pre-condition and you don’t have any.  If you haven’t answered the Defendant’s list of questions about the car accident, don’t expect the case to be making progress.  Listen and Respond.

Finally, the Solicitor you choose should be the expert – particularly if you followed the guidelines above.  He or she will have years of experience doing the very thing that’s new to you.  Believe it or not, they will know what they’re doing.  By all means ask for explanations and reasons, but at the end of the day, they are experts and they’re providing you with advice that you’re paying for.  While you should never follow advice blindly, you should always pay serious attention to it.  Take Advice – after all you’re paying for.

Should you have any queries relating to this article please do not hesitate to contact the writer Thomas Dowling, Solicitor by email: tdowling@hdm.ie or phone: 061 501100.