Many different terms are used to describe legal professionals:
- legal advisers
- attorneys (an Americanism), or
- a ‘brief’
There are countless others in common usage.
Unfortunately, these different terms can allow for some confusion. When viewing many legal websites a potential client could be forgiven for thinking that they are dealing with a qualified legal professional. The reality, however, might be that nothing could be further from the truth.
The distinction between a ‘real’ solicitor and anyone else is necessary.
As solicitors, we are highly qualified legal professionals. We are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (‘SRA’) and admitted, and accredited, by the Law Society.
Crucially, we are obliged to have insurance in place. This means that if anything does go wrong, our clients have full protection. There is also adherence to the highest ethical standards.
When dealing with other lawyers employed and supervised by solicitors these same protections apply.
Ironically, it is not always the case that unregulated people charge less by way of fees. As a result, clients can find that they not only receive an inferior service but it will often come at a higher price.
The title of “solicitor” is protected under section 21 of the Solicitors Act 1974:
“Any unqualified person who wilfully pretends to be, or takes or uses any name, title, addition or description implying that he is, qualified or recognised by law as qualified to act as a solicitor shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding the fourth level on the standard scale.”
Section 20 of the same Act states:
“No unqualified person is to act as a solicitor.”
An offence under section 20 carries up to 2 years imprisonment, and custodial sentences are the norm, underlying the seriousness of the matter.
Some areas of legal advice are ‘reserved activities’. This means that even if an ‘adviser’ is not pretending to be a solicitor, they are prohibited from acting in those matters.
The simple way around this confusion is always to check that you are dealing with a real solicitor.
You can check whether you are dealing with a real firm by using the SRA website. You can also ensure that any site visited is the actual web address for the firm concerned. The postal address, email and telephone numbers can also be checked. The copying of real websites is another problem at the moment.
How we can help
Instruct a real solicitor from VHS Fletchers if you require help in the following areas of law:
- police station advice
- Magistrates’ and Crown Court representation;
- protest law
- motoring offences
- confiscation proceedings
- prison law
- regulatory and professional defence
- business defence
- environmental offences
- firearms law
- education law