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Can I change family solicitor if I’m not happy?

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Family law can be complicated and becomes increasingly complex as the case goes on. It is therefore crucial that you have a family solicitor who you feel you can rely on to give you the best advice possible and who has your back, no matter what happens. But what if you’re not happy and the client/solicitor relationship has broken down? Can you change your solicitor? We look at all the options in greater detail.

Do I have a right to change family solicitor?

It is always possible to appoint a new solicitor to take over your family proceedings, and you have the right to choose who represents you. But when considering such a change, it is important to consider the potential impact on your case. So, should someone who is dissatisfied with their divorce lawyer make an immediate change?

It is probably best not to rush into a decision, but give your solicitor the opportunity to deal with the things you are unhappy about first. At that point, if you are still dissatisfied with the explanation given or the progress made, for example, then you should follow your gut feeling and change to a firm you know can provide the service you are looking for.

If your case is close to a hearing, it may be better to move once that has concluded. And if final orders have been made, then realistically, there is little point in changing solicitors at that late stage.

What are the main reasons for changing solicitor?

There are many reasons someone may decide to transfer their case to another solicitor. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • The solicitor is not responding or takes forever to return your calls/emails
  • There are delays with your case
  • There has been a lack of progress with your case
  • The firm is closing down
  • The solicitor was negligent
  • Your solicitor is retiring
  • You have lost confidence in your solicitor
  • You are unhappy with the service being provided
  • Your case is being handled by someone who is unqualified

Can I change solicitors halfway through a case?

It is possible to change solicitors at any point during your case. However, this may have a negative impact, depending on how far along you are in the proceedings.

What is the process for appointing a new solicitor?

You will need to pay your old solicitor for all of the work that has been carried out and any outstanding bills. If the outstanding fees are not paid in full, solicitors can exercise a “lien” over your papers/file. It is essential when instructing new solicitors that they have all the papers in order to advise you properly. Sometimes, it is possible to negotiate payment of the outstanding fees in order to receive the papers quicker.

The easiest way to move forward is for the client to sign a document with their new solicitor authorising their former solicitor to release the files. Once you pay the fees in full, the file belongs to you, and you will therefore be able to insist that it is handed over. A persistent delay in handing over the file is something that can be reported to the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

It is important that, in addition to the correspondence and associated court documents, the file also contains all the attendance notes of any conversations between solicitors or any court attendances. This will help your new solicitor to see what advice was given, and whether anything was missed.

Is it expensive to move solicitors?

This depends on the progress of your case and how much work your current solicitor has done. While you may be required to pay extra fees if you change your solicitor, you may not have to pay any additional court costs, provided important case deadlines are met.

Can I change family solicitors if I’m on legal aid?

Whilst changing solicitors is relatively easy when instructing solicitors privately, the issue is more complicated if you are in receipt of legal aid. With legal aid solicitors, you must go through the process of making a complaint about your solicitor with the practice manager or senior partner. They will look at your case and try to resolve your problem. If at that stage, you are still unhappy, then you will need to complain to the Legal Aid Agency. You will not be allowed to move solicitors until you have taken your complaint through the relevant process.

Of course, if you move out of the area your legal aid solicitor serves, then this would allow you to change without too much difficulty.

What will happen if my solicitor is holding money for me?

If your current solicitor is holding money for you, these funds should be transferred to your new solicitor upon request. This money is usually held in a separate bank account which makes the process straightforward. In the event that the firm closes down, your new solicitor will need to make arrangements for the funds to either be sent to you directly or on to them.

What if my firm of solicitors is closed down?

If your firm of solicitors is closed down by the SRA, they will arrange for another firm to safely hold all client files. This firm will contact all affected clients and ask them how they would like their documents to be handled. Usually, clients tend to instruct a new solicitor to take over their case. The firm will also trace any money that was held by the firm and return the funds to the client.

What else can I do if I’m not happy with my solicitor?

If you are not happy with the current level of service, you should complain to a senior partner at the firm. If they understand the situation, they will reassure you that the solicitor working on your matter will improve their level of service. Alternatively, you may ask for another solicitor in the firm to handle your case instead.

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