Finding the right lawyer for your needs can at first seem like trying to find the proverbial needle in a haystack. But what if there was a simpler way? What questions should you be asking to find the perfect lawyer for you? In this article, we will delve a little deeper and help you understand the things to look out for when searching for a good lawyer.
First things first, do you need a regulated or unregulated specialist?
Certainly, there are some services that can legally only be provided by those regulated in the sector. However, there are also many services that help with legal issues that are unregulated such as an HR consultant giving guidance on matters relating to employment law. This is sometimes a more cost-effective way of getting advice as these providers have not gone through the same lengthy qualifications as professional lawyers and are therefore able to keep their costs down.
Specialists have the bonus of experience working in a specific field but on the other side of the coin, what if this means that their focus is too narrow? Start off by deciding if you need legal advice on one issue or if you need a team to help you manage a host of different matters.
Awards, directories, and accreditations. What’s important?
A lot of law firms will shout from the rooftops about their rankings and awards. But which of these is a good indicator of a decent lawyer? Some accreditations are only awarded after a rigorous process, to professionals with real expertise in their respective fields. Knowing the difference between these selection criteria is important. Was this accreditation given based on merit or was it simply purchased?
In the legal sector, there are two directories worth considering, Chambers and Legal 500. These directories allow for comparison and draw on client and industry referees, peer review, and research plus the information that the firms themselves submit.
Awards are generally not a reliable indicator of a good firm. The reason for this is simple: many of the awards have a commercial model closely linking them to the sale of advertising or corporate hospitality i.e sponsorship and taking tables at the shows.
Are legal review sites worth their salt?
Over the past few years, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has been encouraging the SRA, the CILEx and the Council for Licensed Conveyancers to engage more with review websites. This was to provide potential clients with reliable information about legal services. However, these sites depend on customer reviews and need enough of these reviews in order for them to be meaningful and truly reflective of the marketplace. The other issues surrounding review sites are that none of these sites are regulated so there is no benchmark for what these reviews actually mean. In many cases, review sites serve no further purpose than to act as a place for firms to collate favourable reviews. Law firms are under no obligation to solicit reviews from all clients nor to provide information on the total number of matters from which favourable reviews have arisen. Finally, a lot of the sites offer a paid subscription service. These subscriptions allow firms to control their public marketing message through responses to any negative reviews, as well as providing links and further information. This means that firms with subscriptions can be promoted over those without rather than based on merit. Until these sites are properly regulated, they should only contribute a small part to your decision. In short, these reviews need to be taken with a pinch of salt.
Finally, what to look for online?
Law firms’ online presence is carefully curated and most firms have spent time and money ensuring that their websites reflect their best practices. It can be difficult to distinguish law firms just from looking at their websites but there are a few things to look out for to help you.
- Sites that haven’t been updated recently and just look amateurish are negative indicators. For example, high street shop windows that look untidy and out of date are not going to attract customers
- Are case studies on the website written in layman’s terms or packed full of legal jargon? The way they demonstrate expertise is a good sign of how they provide legal expertise (again, do take with a pinch of salt as sometimes these may not have been written by the firm themselves)
- Client testimonials are a great addition to a website. Obviously, the key thing to bear in mind is that they will have been hand-picked by the firm to showcase their skills and experience but if they are on their website then they are likely there with permission from the client
- The most useful insight into how a law firm works is individual lawyer biographies. Looking at how they talk about themselves and prioritise information can be a great way to decide if they sound right for you. Websites that only have general descriptions of claimed areas of practice can tell you very little other than what work the lawyer thinks they do best or would like to do more of
- Rarely published but worth keeping an eye out for is hard information like client satisfaction measurements, complaints/negligence reports, regulatory history or financial position
- Finally, what is important to you? More and more firms are including their values, ethics and responsibilities on their websites as they realise this is becoming an increasing factor in client decision making
Want to find the right lawyer for your business?
Book your free 30-minute consultation with one of our advisors here. We will talk through the options and suggest at least two law firms that we think are a good fit for your business. We aren’t paid any commission and you won’t be under any obligation to work with the law firms we put forward