With more than 100,000 people working as solicitors they are the largest group of lawyers, and they work in all sorts of places. Often they work for law firms like the ones you might see on a local high street.
Sometimes they are employed by organisations like councils, banks and charities. You can also find solicitors who provide legal services through websites online. Details for solicitors in England and Wales can be found on the Solicitors Regulation Authority Solicitors Register.
What do solicitors do?
Solicitors can give you legal advice on different situations, and are able to offer legal services that can help you resolve legal issues. Different solicitors are experts in different areas. For example, some solicitors specialise in divorce cases, while others specialise in personal injury cases.
Who regulates solicitors?
The Solicitors Regulation Authority is also known as the SRA. The SRA keeps watch over all solicitors in England and Wales, as well as the firms that they work for.
The SRA has seven principles and a code of conduct that all solicitors have to follow in their work. It steps in to take action when solicitors don't meet the right standards or if they are dishonest.
The SRA can also shut down law firms that pose big risks to the public.
How are you protected if you use a solicitor?
The SRA's seven principles aim to keep you safe and well protected. You can read out about the principles on the SRA's site.
You've got rights when you use a solicitor. These include the right to be treated fairly, the right to be told clearly about the costs of the legal work, and the right to complain if something goes wrong.
You also have the right to make a claim from the SRA's Compensation Fund if you lose money because of a solicitor's behaviour or dishonesty.
To find out more about all these rights take a look at the SRA's leaflet which tells you exactly what to look out for (opens as a PDF document).
How can I know what to expect from a solicitor?
Fortunately legal issues don't tend to come along every day of our lives. This does mean that it can be hard to work out what you should expect from a solicitor when they start working for you.
To get up to speed quickly visit the SRA's site which gives you the lowdown on what to expect.
What do I do if something goes wrong with my solicitor?
If you're not happy with the way things are going with your solicitor don't be afraid to speak up. Call them or email to explain what's going wrong and ask them to put things right.
If you don't manage to agree a way forward with the solicitor you can make a complaint to them. Many people prefer to do this in writing but however you decide to make your complaint tell the solicitor clearly that it is a formal complaint so they can handle it properly for you. If you need a hand take a look at the Legal Ombudsman's example complaint letter that you can use.
If you lose confidence in your solicitor you do have the right to move your case to a different solicitor, and you can ask for your papers any time to do this. Remember that you may need to pay the solicitor for the work they've done so far on your case before they'll agree to release your papers.
If your complaint still doesn't get resolved you might want to contact the Legal Ombudsman for advice and support with taking things further.
How should I pay for a solicitor?
You can find information about paying for your legal services on our Legal Costs page.
Where can I find a solicitor?
You can find solicitors in all sorts of ways, depending on what your legal issue is. Sometimes family and friends will be able to recommend one that they've used before. In other cases you can get in touch with a few different law firms by phone or by email to ask them if they would be interested in taking on your case. You might also have seen a solicitor's office on your local high street before and you could arrange to go a see them.
Some of the things to try are:
- ask someone you know to recommend one they have used
- search the Solicitors Regulation Authority Solicitors Register - this is particularly useful if you need a solicitor who specialises in a particular area of law
- use website searches or legal comparison websites
- look up 'solicitor' in your local phone directory