Gary Rycroft column: Make sure your lawyer is qualified

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Does anyone fancy a career change? How about setting up as a will writer or giving employment law advice? Too much training involved you think and you don’t like exams?

Well don’t worry because you will be amazed to hear that you don’t need any training!

Yes I studied and trained for six years before I qualified as a solicitor and before my partners and I open the door of our office in Lancaster we have to pay for insurance so that in the unlikely event we make a mistake our clients can be compensated. But actually anyone can set themselves up in business to write wills and the like 
and only a small number of legal services (such as drafting certain ‘deeds’ and conducting certain litigation) are actually ‘reserved’ to professionally qualified lawyers.

So when you engage the services of a ‘lawyer’ how can you be sure that they are in fact legally qualified?

Well it is a criminal 
offence to hold yourself out as a ‘solicitor’ when you are not so if you go to a solicitor you can be sure they are qualified, regulated and insured.

This means that as a consumer of legal services you will have genuine redress if you are not satisfied with the outcome.

In my own specialism of wills, there are an increasing number of providers who are not legally qualified and sometimes this has led to very unfortunate outcomes for some clients of those concerned who then 
have no means of official complaint or financial redress.

The Law Society nationally were so concerned about the lack of consumer understanding about this situation that they put together evidence which was presented to the Government asking for will writing to be reserved only to qualified lawyers.

The Ministry of Justice announced that will writing would remain open to any Tom, Dick or Chris, whether qualified, insured, regulated or not.

So when you are engaging the services of a ‘lawyer’ make sure they really are qualified to do the job by checking they are registered on The Law Society website (www.lawsociety.org.uk).