It’s critical to choose the right legal representation during family law disputes. This blog underscores the substantial impact of having an experienced solicitor on your side, illustrating how the right choice can influence the outcome of your case and safeguard your future.
Appearing in court can be a daunting and overwhelming experience for our clients. It's often the last place they expect to find themselves, whether due to issues arising from having a child with someone or from getting married. During a separation, obtaining the right legal advice is crucial; failing to do so can jeopardise your chances of success and impact the outcome of your case.
Many perceive solicitors and barristers as unaffordable, a belief that drives people to seek alternatives. At Family Law Group, we counter this perception by striving to keep our fees competitive and offering Legal Aid where applicable, ensuring that our services are accessible to all who need them. Despite our efforts, the high perceived cost of professional legal advice has contributed to the rise of McKenzie Friend companies and individuals, who often offer representation at very low costs or even for free.
However, it’s important to note that some companies and individuals may be unregulated and not trained to the same standard as solicitors and barristers. Opting for legal advice from unregulated entities means there's limited recourse if things go wrong.
It’s therefore important to understand each type of representation:
1. McKenzie Friend:
• Role: Provides moral support, takes notes, and offers advice during adjournments but generally does not have speaking rights in court.
• Qualifications: Varied, ranging from legally trained individuals to family members or agency workers without legal qualifications.
• Regulation: Unlike solicitors and barristers, who are regulated by professional bodies like the Solicitors Regulation Authority and the Bar Standards Board, McKenzie Friends are not required to have a regulatory body overseeing their conduct or qualifications.
• Role: Assists law firms or solicitors in preparing cases for court and may also operate independently.
• Qualifications: Usually has legal training or education. Recognised by professional bodies like the National Association of Licensed Paralegals (NALP). Can perform most legal tasks except 'reserved' activities exclusive to solicitors.
• Regulation: Self-regulated profession with qualifications offered by bodies like NALP.
• Role: Provides comprehensive legal advice, represents clients in court, and handles a wide range of legal matters.
• Qualifications: Extensive legal education and training, including obtaining a practising certificate.
• Regulation: Strictly regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). Must adhere to a professional code of conduct, with significant consequences for breaches.
• Role: Specialises in advocacy, representing clients in court, and providing expert legal opinions. They are often called in by solicitors to provide specialist legal advice and appear in court on behalf of clients.
• Qualifications: Requires completion of the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) and a period of pupillage (training under a senior barrister).
• Regulation: Regulated by the Bar Standards Board. Subject to a strict code of conduct, and like solicitors, barristers face significant consequences for professional misconduct.
Additionally, the Legal Ombudsman can adjudicate complaints about solicitors.
It is therefore critical to select the right legal representation in family law cases. The journey through the legal system, often perceived as intimidating, can be navigated with confidence when backed by the expertise of a professional solicitor.
Family Law Group has highly trained solicitors that can provide thorough advice tailored to your circumstances, starkly contrasting the potential issues of unregulated legal services. We offer free initial appointments with paralegals and fixed fees where possible. Your solicitor will listen, offer advice, and help you make an informed decision about your next steps.
Ultimately the decision is yours but hopefully this is a compelling reminder of the difference that a qualified, empathetic solicitor can make in securing a favourable resolution and protecting your future in the complex world of family law.
Should you find yourself in need of legal advice, please contact us here. You can also find qualified solicitors in your local area at https://solicitors.lawsociety.org.uk/