How to change your solicitor when on Legal Aid, is a question we’re asked repeatedly. We turned to Amanda Rimmer at Stephensons to offer our site users some advice. Amanda’s opening lines make perfect sense; it really is vital for all mums and dads to strike up a good relationship with their solicitor – anything less could be disastrous!
It is really, really important that you have a good working relationship with your solicitor and that you feel supported and confident in their advice. This is particularly the case with family problems. Unfortunately solicitors can’t always tell you what you want to hear and have a duty to you to be realistic in delivering that advice. It’s about agreeing a plan of action, being kept informed, understanding your position and working together as a team.
There may be occasions when there is a breakdown in the relationship or there is concern about how a case is being handled. Before doing anything else, sit down with your solicitor and have an open and honest frank exchange about any concerns. In most cases misunderstandings can be resolved. If you have public funding for your case, the Legal Services Commission will expect you to do this.
If this does not work, then you should look for a new solicitor. Your choice of a solicitor is an important decision. Look for recommendations and solid reputations. Look particularly for those experienced in advising under the legal aid schemes and are accredited specialists in family work. Research is vital – this is about your family. Websites such as www.resolution.org.uk and www.sra.org.uk will tell you who is in your area. Arrange to see them. While they can’t advise you on your case, they will be able to say whether you can change your solicitor. Any public funding you have in place will need to be transferred to the new solicitor. The Legal Services Commission will agree to this if it is reasonable and you have cause to be concerned about how your case is being handled. Your new solicitor will assess this for you and help in the transfer process.
A word of warning though – the availability of legal aid will change drastically in April 2013. The Government is set to remove the vast majority of family work in relation to divorce, financial settlements and disputes concerning children from the current legal aid schemes. Legal Aid is not going to be available for many people unless there are very specific and limited situations. If you have funding now this will continue until your case has finished. But if you want legal aid after April you may find that it has gone. If you are worried join the campaign at www.soundoffforjustice.org.
Many thanks to Amanda for this advice.