Alison Atack: Make sure your ‘legal advisor’ is a qualified solicitor with the protection that ensures

Alison Atack is President of the Law Society of Scotland
Alison Atack is President of the Law Society of Scotland
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AFTER Christmas and the new year came and went for another year, many of us made the most of the January feeling and adopted healthy eating habits and different ways to stay fit.

It’s an encouraging time of year to try something new, break a habit, or make a significant change in life. For many people 2019 might be the first time they have sought legal assistance from a solicitor.

Solicitors thrive on helping people, so January can be a busy time for the legal profession as people seek advice on how to realise their dream of starting their own business, buying a new home or getting their affairs in order by making a will or arranging a power of attorney.

But it’s not all positive news. Many solicitors report a rise in January in the number of people wanting advice on separation and divorce, with January often dubbed as ‘divorce month’ because the weather isn’t the only thing that’s gone chilly.

Reassuringly, a recent survey found that 81 per cent of the Scottish public agreed that solicitors work hard to help people with difficult situations.

The research was carried out by ComRes for the Law Society of Scotland in November 2018 and shows that 41 per cent of Scottish adults have used a solicitor in the past five years and 93 per cent of those consider their solicitor to be trustworthy.

The survey, which questioned 1,020 Scottish adults aged 18 and over also found that 92 per cent agree that solicitors are educated and trained to a high standard.

The law plays an important part in all aspects of life and Scottish solicitors are here to help people often at the most difficult or most exciting time of their lives. They are on hand to offer advice and give guidance through whatever life-changing decision has been taken. It’s a good idea to seek legal advice from the outset as a solicitor is there to help prevent any costly pitfalls. With the legal and financial issues in hand, the focus can remain fully on the details most important to you.

It’s rewarding to see 90 per cent of Scottish adults who have used a solicitor in the last five years say they were satisfied with the service they received, with more than half (56 per cent) saying they were very satisfied and 87 per cent say that their solicitor was an expert in their area of law. When choosing a solicitor, Scottish adults are most likely to say the most important factors are costs (59 per cent) and trust/confidentiality (58 per cent). When it comes to affordability, 36 per cent of Scottish adults who have not used a solicitor in the last five years feel confident they could afford one if they needed to, whereas 61 per cent of those who have used a solicitor in the last five years feel confident they can afford to use one.

Ensuring robust public protections is a core part of our work and going to a solicitor, rather than someone calling themselves a ‘lawyer’ or ‘legal advisor’, means you are talking to a highly trained and regulated professional. In the unlikely event of something going wrong, the client is protected and there are no nasty surprises. This is not the case if those people offering legal advice are not solicitors and there could be no proper route to redress. We know that the public are confused about the difference between ‘lawyer’ and ‘solicitor’. That’s why we have called for the term ‘lawyer’ to be protected so that only those legal professionals who are regulated can call themselves a lawyer. To ensure you are using a regulated legal professional, all Scottish solicitors can be found on the Law Society of Scotland’s ‘Find a Solicitor’ website at www.findasolicitor.scot where you can search for a solicitor with expertise in different aspects of law or in your local area.

Alison Atack is President of the Law Society of Scotland