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Everyone's a solicitor these days

Man looking at law books on a shelf while scratching his head in confustion
Choosing a solicitor can be confusing work

Last December, I wrote about a case where a lady had come to me for a second opinion having instructed a solicitor's firm who immediately passed her case to an unqualified paralegal to handle. The paralegal then instructed a wholly inappropriate "expert" who produced a report based entirely on his own guesswork. They wasted about a £1,000 of the lady's money and proved that going for the cheapest quote isn't a great plan any more when instructing a solicitor than when hiring a builder.

Today, I spoke to a lady who is looking for a solicitor. She asked me a lot of questions about my qualifications (that's a good idea, know who you're dealing with before you instruct them). She also told me about another solicitor she had spoken to and had been impressed by, she gave me the other solicitor's name and made clear that she is a qualified solicitor - I admit I always ask who else a potential client has spoken to - but couldn't remember the name of her firm, so I Googled her.

I immediately discovered a press release, which states:

"We are also expanding, due in part to our success and reputation, but also because of the calibre of solicitors our firm is attracting. A recent addition to the team is Jane Smith, with over 3 years practice experience Jane previously worked in the public sector for the Local Authority." (Names and some text have been changed to hide identities without altering the feel of the original).

I don't know this lady - maybe she's
qualified... maybe she isn't (she isn't,
she's from Shutterstock)
Now, Jane Smith isn't her real name and the press release does not explicitly say that Jane is a solicitor, but I think that most people reading that would think she is.  I checked with the Solicitors Regulation Authority and confirmed my suspicion that Jane is not a qualified solicitor.  I have no idea what, if any, qualifications she has to be dispensing legal advice but she certainly does not appear to be a qualified solicitor.  The SRA do sometimes make mistakes - for a long time it was impossible to find my record through the search tool on their website, although I showed up when you found my firm... I checked her firm and she is not listed as a solicitor there either.

What's the moral of the story?  When you instruct a professional, such as a solicitor, find out about their qualifications and make sure the person you are speaking to has the qualifications they claim to have.  You can check a solicitor is real with the Solicitors Regulation Authority - here's my entry.

Not everybody you speak to is honest or has your best interests at heart.  Try to always instruct a solicitor you will be meeting face to face - if they are based in Hull and providing a nationwide service with two staff and a single office then ask when you'll meet your solicitor and who will represent you in court - often the "national" firms will never meet you and will just dispatch any barrister who happens to be free to court, which means you are unlikely to get a consistent service.

I don't want to turn this post into an advert for my firm, but I will say that the ethos of my practice is that when you instruct Nick, you get Nick - so I will generally represent every client at every court hearing and if it's not going to be possible then I will tell you that before you instruct me.  I want to meet every client before their case and I'll always meet them at a location convenient to them, which is why I focus my efforts on people based in London and Oxfordshire only.  I know that there are many other solicitors (and direct access barristers) who work in the same, or very similar, way and provide a great service to their clients.  If you need a solicitor, make sure you find the right one for you.


  1. Nicholas Diable indeed and there was me thinking this was a pen name. I was conjuring up some sort of liaison demon with Virgil in Dante’s Hell

    1. Ha - nope, Nick Diable is the result you get when your parents let your older siblings names you!

    2. Ed (not Bystander)16 August 2015 at 15:59

      ... after the Marvel comic book they want to read about a half-human / half-demon detective?

      Now I want to read that too!


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