Obtaining legal advice
From time to time you may find yourself in need of legal advice - for example if you are experiencing discrimination, if you have a problem with your landlord or employer, or if you need to draw up a legal document such as a will or power of attorney. It can sometimes be difficult to know where to go and who to ask, and what to expect from the different sorts of legal advice services available.
What you can do
There are a number of routes you can go down if you are looking for help or advice on a legal matter:
If you're not sure what sort of help you need, the best place to try first is usually your local Citizens Advice office. Citizens Advice is a national charity which offers a wide range of advice and support to help people resolve their problems with debt, benefits, employment, housing, discrimination, and many more issues. It has a website and a network of local officers where you can speak to experienced advisors. Getting help from Citizens Advice is free.
You will first meet with an assessor who will ask you to explain what the problem is, and let you know what options are available to you if you want to take it further. They can give you information to take away, arrange an appointment with an advisor, or direct you to a different organisation that's better placed to help you.
Find out more about Citizens Advice Bureau, or contact Kingston CAB.
Law centres offer legal advice, casework and representation to individuals and groups. They are independent and operate on a not-for-profit basis. They can offer advice on a number of issues but usually specialise in employment, discrimination, housing and immigration. They usually have teams of qualified advisors who provide support and advice, as well as solicitors who will take on Legal Aid or pro bono (unpaid) cases.
Find your local law centre
Solicitors offer services in a wide range of legal subjects, but some are specialists in only one or two areas (for example housing law or employment law). If you approach a firm of solicitors and they cannot help you with all your needs, they will usually be happy to refer you to another solicitor, or get the advice of another specialist on your behalf.
Getting legal advice and help from a solicitor can be expensive. Most solicitors charge an hourly rate for their services. At your initial meeting, your solicitor should give you an estimate of how much it will cost for them to help with your case, and let you make a decision about whether you can afford it. You should remember that if a case needs to go to court, the costs will be a lot higher than if it is settled out of court.
Some solicitors may offer a 'no win no fee' or 'conditional fee' arrangement, under which they take your case for free. If you win the case, your solicitor's fees will usually be paid by the other side. If you lose, you don't have to pay your solicitor's fees. However, you may be asked to take out an insurance policy to pay for the other side's costs if you lose. This is commonly done in personal injury cases where compensation is expected, and it is possible that the court could rule that some of the court costs be paid out of the compensation, so you should think carefully and discuss the options with your solicitor before entering into this sort of arrangement.
Other information and adviceDisability Law Service is a professional organisation run by disabled people which offers support and advice on employment and welfare rights and other legal issues for people with disabilities. It aims to demystify the legal system by giving concise and timely legal advice and information.