01.09.2009 Legal Opinion No Comments

When is a solicitor not really a solicitor?

You may have heard the anecdote that it is 99% of solicitors who give the rest a bad reputation (you can laugh, we find this funny too!).

Seriously though, the solicitors’ profession has sadly suffered a decline in reputation over the years but we ask you to bear in mind that many of those who have caused this decline are not in fact qualified solicitors.  Some are unqualified legal advisers and some operate from ‘consultancy’ firms that are not law firms and are therefore not regulated as law firms are.

They trade on the good reputation of solicitors by allowing clients to mistakenly believe they are qualified solicitors as the public not unreasonably assumes that the person they consult for legal advice is a qualified solicitor unless they are told otherwise, and they are not.

More alarmingly, some even claim to be qualified solicitors when they are not.  By trading on the good reputation of solicitors in this way, these same individuals have damaged the reputation of the solicitors’ profession that they have hijacked.

All qualified lawyers in the UK hold a practising certificate issued by their regulating body.  For instance, solicitors are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), which is the regulatory arm of The Law Society.  Most importantly for consumers, this practising certificate must be displayed in the office where it can be viewed by the public.  If the advisor you consult does not have such a certificate on display where you can view it, that advisor is not a qualified solicitor in the UK.

Also of importance to consumers, the regulating body of a fully qualified lawyer in the UK maintains a register of all qualified members of that regulating body.  For instance, The Law Society website has a Find a Solicitor function where you can search for the name of a firm or individual solicitor.  Again, if the firm or advisor you consult is not on the register then that firm is not a firm of solicitors and that individual is not a solicitor.

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