Legal services in England and Wales are offered by various types of lawyers.
There are important differences between these roles, from the type of services they can and cannot offer, to the costs you can expect to pay and the level of protection you would get if something goes wrong.
Before choosing a lawyer, it helps to understand what kind of adviser can help your particular issue, what they are permitted to do and what you can expect from them.
The main distinction is that there are regulated and unregulated legal advisers.
Regulated legal advisers
Regulated advisers and firms are monitored and assessed by an industry regulatory body. Using a regulated legal adviser can give you additional protection against certain kinds of risk.
Regulated advisers include:
- CILEx practitioners
- Costs lawyers
- OISC immigration advisers
- Notary publics
- Trade Mark & patent attorneys
- Licensed conveyancers
There are some legal services that only a regulated lawyer can help you with. These are called ‘reserved’ legal services, and they include preparing land registry documents to purchase property (ie buying a house), appearing before and addressing a court, conducting litigation, preparing probate papers, notarial activities and the administration of oaths.
To be regulated, an adviser must hold the required professional qualifications and experience. They must also work to set industry standards for service and advice.
If they don’t meet these standards and fail to address the issue after you’ve raised it with them, you can complain to the firm’s regulator.
Firms have to make it clear who regulates them. This information is usually on their website.
Legal industry regulators include:
Type of legal adviser
Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA)
Bar Standards Board (BSB)
Chartered Legal Executives and CILEx practitioners
Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC)
Chartered accountants, probate practitioners and alternative business structures
Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW)
Patent Attorneys and Trade Mark Attorneys
Intellectual Property Regulation Board (IPReg)
The Faculty Office
Costs Lawyer Standards Board (CLSB)
Regulated firms also have to have professional indemnity insurance.
If you are disputing money that has been wrongly taken by the firm, you may be able to claim it back through the regulator’s compensation scheme.
Non-regulated legal advisers
Other types of advisers can also call themselves ‘lawyers’ without having to be regulated by an industry body.
Many unregulated lawyers will be part of a membership organisation, but this is not the same as regulation by a regulatory body.
Unregulated advisers include:
- McKenzie Friends for litigants in person
- Mediators to resolve disputes
- Charity and trade union advisers
- Will writers
Unregulated advisers can perform only limited types of legal work.
Some services can be delivered by unregulated lawyers but only if they are supervised by and work in a regulated firm, such as giving general legal advice, writing a will and supporting you if going to court.
As they are not regulated, clients of unregulated advisers will not have the same level of protection as those of regulated advisers. This also means services by unregulated advisers tend not to cost as much those delivered by regulated providers.
You may also find a broad range of experience and skill among unregulated advisers, which can make it challenging to compare and choose an adviser.
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