Before instructing a solicitor have a think about whether or not your legal query could be answered by a free volunteer run advisory service? Although these types of services cannot offer you legal advice, then can give you some fundamental pointers into what your rights are or what the best cause of action would be. Once this free advice is sought you will be in a better position to know whether or not you need professional legal advice.
Citizens Advice Bureau (‘CAB’)
This is one of the most prominent advice bodies in the UK. It is entirely composed of trained volunteers and can offer free, independent and confidential advice. Its main areas of advice are on debt, housing and employment rights. These areas are not definitive as the CAB has access to a huge amount of resources. In light of this, it is a great place to start if you have any problem, which you want some basic information about. The CAB will normally give you an indication to whether or not you have the legal grounds in order to bring a case. The you can get legal advice with more security.
Pro Bono Legal Surgeries
Many lawyers offer free legal advice surgeries. This can be referred to as ‘pro bono’ work which is latin for ‘the greater good’. These surgeries are a fantastic opportunity for people to spend 15-30 minutes with a lawyer. For example people use this period to think about whether or not they should bring a claim and whether or not the wrong done to them is civil or criminal. At the end of the session you will be more informed to whether or not it is worth spending money on appointing lawyers to take on your case.
Pro bono is not only offered by law firms. Many university law schools or professional training providers use the expertise of their students and law professors (of which will have practiced law prior to teaching) to offer free legal advice to the local community. Enquire at your local university or closest professional studies provider for more information.
Free telephone advice from lawyers
Many law firms are happy to provide brief initial advice over the phone without charge. The best way of finding this advice is to go online and search for those lawyers who offer such free advice on their website.
Financial Services Ombudsmen
This service is a branch of the Financial Services Authority (‘FSA’). The ombudsmen help deal with complaints from consumers or businesses concerning financial services. They are a body formed of impartial experts which provide opinions on cases. Not only this but they have the authority to order any business providing financial services to settle a dispute with a consumer. If you are not happy with the opinion of the ombudsmen then you do not have to accept their advice or order, you are always free to seek legal advice. However, if you choose not to accept this order the you consequently become bound by this decision. If you believe that a business providing financial services has broken a rule or regulation provided by the FSA then this must be taken up with a different regulatory body.
Local Government Ombudsmen
If you have a complaint about a public service such as provided by your local council, then you should contact your local government ombudsmen (‘LGO’) to attempt to resolve the problem. The LGO have the job of looking into complaints made against councils. It is however not under an obligation to investigate all disputes, so it can pick and choose those, which it feels, are worth perusing. The LGO offers independent, impartial and free advice. It also has the same powers as the High Court when it comes to disclosure and investigation of a local authority.
Finally, depending on your financial circumstances and the kind of case you’re involved in, you may be eligible for legal aid [or public funding as it is now known]. Nevertheless, many solicitors will refuse legal aid work and in some circumstances you may in fact be liable to repay costs to a legal aid lawyer.