Over the Christmas/New Year break a story emerged in the media warning that domestic abuse survivors are being targeted by scammers charging for help and advice.
The story told of how opportunists are targeting victims of domestic abuse by lying about their professional experience and charging them for legal and emotional help.
Taking advantage of the vulnerability of victims, they pretend to be qualified counsellors, domestic abuse “consultants” or specialist lawyers, while advertising fees that they claim are lower than standard rates.
The story is (amongst other things) a reminder of the importance of choosing a regulated lawyer.
But who is a regulated lawyer, and how do you know if a lawyer is regulated?
The answer is actually quite simple, and is a matter of nomenclature, or the name used by the legal expert.
The first thing to understand is that the term ‘lawyer’ is not protected. Anyone can call themselves a ‘lawyer’, without any legal training or regulation. Beware, therefore, anyone describing themselves solely by that term.
On the other hand, the terms ‘solicitor’ and ‘barrister’ are protected. No one who is not either a solicitor or a barrister can describe themselves as such.
And to become a solicitor or a barrister requires in both cases the successful completion of a rigorous process of academic and vocational training, ensuring that the solicitor or barrister meets the required standard of legal expertise.
Further to that, all solicitors and barristers who are allowed to practise must have a practising certificate. The practising certificate will be from the Solicitors Regulation Authority for solicitors or from the Bar Standards Board for barristers, the regulatory bodies for the two professions.
So if a ‘lawyer’ that you wish to instruct calls themselves a ‘solicitor’ or a ‘barrister’ but you require proof of that, you can ask to see their practising certificate. You can also check to see if a solicitor is allowed to practise by checking the Solicitors Register, or if a barrister is allowed to practise by checking the Barrister’s Register.
So why is it important that your lawyer is regulated? Well, firstly it means that they will have the required legal expertise, secondly it means that they must conduct themselves in accordance with the rules set out by the regulator, and thirdly if you have any concerns about them you may raise those concerns with the appropriate regulator. You will have none of these protections if you instruct an unregulated lawyer.
It should be noted that many solicitor’s firms employ lawyers who are not solicitors, such as legal executives. But the regulations governing the solicitor will also cover the work done by such lawyers, so you will still be protected if a lawyer employed by a solicitor works for you.
Needless to say, all lawyers used by Family Law Cafe are fully regulated, so you can be safe in the knowledge that you will be fully protected if you use our service.
And if you are a victim of domestic abuse we can find you an expert that works with you on our digital platform. For more information, call us on 020 3904 0506, or click here, and fill in the form.
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Family Law Cafe’s accessible team of legal experts from various disciplines expedites the customer’s case and keeps them informed and in control 24/7 through a unique and secure online portal. Family Law Cafe is your start-point for getting matters sorted with strategy, support and security.