FAQs for consumers of legal services

As a consumer of legal services or a member of public, you may have questions about using a solicitor. We hope these frequently asked questions help. To begin, select a topic below.

Finding a solicitor

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To find out if you are eligible for legal aid and free and confidential legal advice, contact Civil Legal Advice (CLA) on 0345 345 4345 or visit www.gov.uk/civil-legal-advice.

There are several ways to access cheap or free legal advice. Read more about costs and legal aid

To find solicitors who might be able to help in a particular area of law, use the Law Society's directory, Find a solicitor.

Read more about costs and "no win, no fee" agreements.

To find solicitors who might be able to help in specific areas of law, use the Law Society's directory, Find a solicitor.

 

Checking a solicitor's records

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Check a solicitor's record

For information about the period before 1 January 2008, or to check a firm's record, Contact us.

We will be able to tell you if an individual is regulated by us if you contact us.

You can find out if we regulate a firm using our Law firm search.

The Law Society's Find a Solicitor search aims to include all individuals and law firms that are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and who choose to be listed. Most solicitors are on the Law Society's find a solicitor search engine, but not all. We will be able to tell you if an individual is regulated by us if you contact us.

You can find out if we regulate a firm using our Law firm search.

To find the current contact details of firms we regulate, you can use our Law firm search.

If you are unable to find the solicitor or firm, please contact us.

Please provide us with as much information as possible to help us complete a search, including : the name and address of the firm of solicitors you used, the name of any solicitor with whom you had dealings, and the date on which you last had dealings with the firm. (Even an approximate year will help us with the search.)

Using a solicitor

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In conveyancing transactions, because the solicitor needs to pay stamp duty and land registry fees on the day of completion or shortly thereafter, they tend to issue one bill/completion statement to clients asking for monies just before completion.

This bill normally includes their costs, and this is acceptable practice.

A solicitor can only act for both parties to a conveyancing transaction if

  • the parties are connected or related in law, or
  • they are both established clients, or
  • the transaction is for less than £10,000, or
  • each client by chance went to a different office of the same law firm.

A solicitor owes a duty of confidentiality to their client. Therefore, until your mother dies (and at that time the duty to keep matters confidential will pass to the executors), the solicitor cannot hand over the will. The solicitor could give you a copy of the will if your mother gives her written consent and has full mental capacity to give that consent. The solicitor may have to visit her to assess capacity before handing over the will.

This is a discussion that you need to have with each solicitor or firm that you use, to fully understand the costs involved. Read more about costs and what to expect from a solicitor.

For more about what you may need to consider for your first meeting with a solicitor, including the sort of information you can expect to receive, read our information on finding a solicitor and what to expect from a solicitor.

 

To find out whether a firm is regulated by the SRA, use our Law firm search.

You can also contact us directly to find out whether we regulate a firm or person.

Problems with a solicitor

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How to complain to your solicitor

If you have complained to your solicitor or firm and you aren't satisfied with their response, you can take things further.

  • If your concerns are about poor service, such as a problem relating to fees or delayed communication, contact theLegal Ombudsman.

  • If you have concerns about a solicitor who you have not instructed, or if your complaint relates to a breach of SRA Principles or to an allegation of dishonesty or discrimination, you should report the matter to us.

How to complain to your solicitor

If you do not get a satisfactory answer from the solicitor or firm, take your complaint to the Legal Ombudsman (LeO), an independent organisation dealing with complaints about poor service from lawyers and legal services. If LeO agrees that you have been overcharged, it may make the solicitor or firm refund or reduce your legal fees. If you have lost out due to other aspects of poor service, LeO may award compensation.

You can also ask a court to examine your bill; you may incur further costs, and you should get independent legal advice beforehand. For more advice on legal fees, read our information about costs.

If you are the client of a firm closed by us, read our advice about implications for you.

To find the current contact details of firms we regulate, you can use our Law firm search.

If your solicitor's contact details have not changed, you will need to contact us. We can tell you if the firm has been abandoned or if we have closed the firm.

To check that a solicitor is genuine, or if you think you are dealing with a bogus solicitor, contact us immediately.

Solicitors closed down by the SRA

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An intervened firm is completely closed down. It is no longer able to act for its clients. Usually, we hire a specialist firm of solicitors to help us close down a practice, and we call such firms SRA intervention agents.

There are several grounds on which we may intervene, which may include:

  • Protecting the interests of clients (or former or potential clients)
  • We suspect dishonesty on the part of someone at the firm.
  • The only solicitor at the firm has been made bankrupt, sent to prison or struck off the roll of solicitors.
  • The practice has been abandoned.
  • There have been serious breaches of the SRA Code of Conduct or the SRA Accounts Rules.

Learn about the law governing intervention

When we intervene into a firm, we sum up the reasons behind this action in a record of the decision on our website.

A solicitor or firm that we have closed down can apply to the High Court to have our decision to intervene overturned.

  • We freeze the firm's bank accounts and arrange for the funds to be transferred to the SRA.
  • We ask an intervention agent to act for us. The agent takes the firm's papers so they can be held safely.
  • The agent or the SRA tries to return the papers and money held by the practice to the people they belong to.

Our intervention agent tries to contact all clients who have ongoing, current cases that were being handled by an intervened firm to tell them we have closed down the firm. Our Intervention Archives Department contacts clients if we find a will, deed or other document of record, such as a power of attorney, that is theirs. The intervention agent asks the client for instructions about what should happen to their file or document.

We keep safe the documents and money taken from an intervened firm until we are able to return them to the people they belong to. We may not be able to return papers and money straight away if

  • the firm's accounts have not been kept properly,
  • money or papers have gone missing,
  • we cannot contact the people they belong to.

What we do not do

The SRA or the agent will try to return any money the firm was holding for you.

Claiming your money from the firm's bank accounts

You need to make an application for money to be returned to you.

To claim your money from the bank accounts of a firm we have closed down, contact us.

If the firm's accounts are not in good order, it might be hard to work out exactly how much money is owed—and to whom. For that reason, it might take us or the agent some time to return your money.

Applying to our Compensation Fund for a grant

If we cannot return money you are owed from the firm's bank accounts, or if we can only return part of the money, you can apply to our Compensation Fund for a grant.

If you urgently need money that a firm we have closed down was holding for you, and you cannot wait for us to look at the firm’s accounts, you can apply to our Compensation Fund for a grant.

We cannot guarantee that you will get a grant, and you must prove that the solicitor was holding your money or that you are suffering hardship because we closed down your solicitor’s firm. For more information, contact us.

If you have not heard from our intervention agent yet and want to talk to them about your case, get the agent's contact details by following the instructions under Find out if a firm has been closed down by the SRA.

You can tell our intervention agent who your new solicitor is or where you would like them to send your papers.

Our intervention agents do not take over and run intervened firms or do legal work on behalf of their clients, except in an emergency. What if my case is urgent?

Wills and other documents of record

If a firm that we have closed down was holding a will or other document of record for you (deeds to a property, for example) and your file can be found, our Intervention Archives Department will contact you to ask what you want done with your papers.

If you have not heard from our Intervention Archives Department yet and want to talk to them about your documents, please contact us using the details at www.sra.org.uk/myfiles.

You can tell our Intervention Archives Department who your new solicitor is or where you would like us to send your papers.

You can choose any solicitor to carry on your case, unless your case is publicly funded (for example, you have legal aid). We can only hand over a publicly funded case to a firm of solicitors with a Legal Services Commission franchise in the right area of law.

To find out about solicitors in your area, use the Law Society's Find a solicitor directory.

For legal advice, try your local Citizens Advice Bureau or Law Centre.

Papers

The intervention agent does its best to identify urgent cases straight away. If you have an urgent matter, the agent will try to contact you to tell you what is happening and ask you what you want.

The intervention agent may fail to identify your file as urgent. So, if you have an urgent case, it is important for you to contact the agent quickly. If you do not have the contact details of our intervention agent, contact us.

Money

If you urgently need money that a firm we have closed down was holding for you, and you cannot wait for us to look at the firm's accounts, you can apply to our Compensation Fund for a grant.

We cannot guarantee that you will get a grant, and you must prove that the solicitor was holding your money or that you are suffering hardship because we closed down your solicitor's firm. For more information, contact us.

If we recover your file from the intervened firm, we will keep it safe in our Intervention Archive Department. 

Please contact us if you want to see whether Intervention Archives took possession of any of your papers. 

We will send you a request form to complete. Before we can return your file, you will need to provide proof of your identity

Intervention Archives aim to process 85% of these requests within 4 weeks. This does depend on the volume of requests.

My firm has closed

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To find the current contact details of firms we regulate, you can use our Law firm search.

To find the current contact details of an individual solicitor, use the Law Society's directory at Find a solicitor.

If you are unable to find the solicitor or firm, please contact us.  

You may wish to consider seeking independent legal advice. Contacting Citizens Advice might be a good place to start. Or, if you are a member of a trade union, it may be able to help.  

Please provide as much information as possible to help us complete a search, including the name and address of the firm of solicitors you used, the name of any solicitor with whom you had dealings, and the date on which you last had dealings with the firm. (Even an approximate year will help us with the search.)

Accessibility

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Cold calling and canvassing

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Neither solicitors nor anyone working for them are allowed to telephone people offering their legal services. Some companies offering help with Wills, Personal Injury Claims or Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) claims for example may not be solicitors that we regulate. If you find out who is calling, or who the person is calling on behalf of, we can tell you if we regulate them and if we can take action. Please email us if this has happened to you.

Neither solicitors nor anyone working for them should approach people offering their services. No one should be pressured into choosing a firm. Please email us if this has happened to you.

Please email us if you felt pressured into signing documentation or otherwise felt the solicitor behaved unethically.

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