What kind of family lawyer do you need?

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If you need legal representation because you’re going through family difficulties, such as future child arrangements or separating finances, it can be difficult to know what your first steps should be. Depending on your situation you might need to instruct a family solicitor, a barrister (through direct access), or both, but how do you know which route is right for you?

Our family lawyers have put together a basic guide to legal representation for family disputes to help you decide.

Within this guide, where we refer to our family ‘solicitors’, this also includes our Legal Executives.

What’s the difference between a solicitor and a barrister?

A solicitor handles legal matters outside the court such as legal letters, applications and communication with the other side in a dispute. They can also represent you in most courts.

Solicitors usually work for a law firm and can either charge by the hour or agree a fixed fee with you in advance.

A barrister is a specialist lawyer who represents you in court, advocating and arguing on your behalf. They are qualified to represent you in any court. Most barristers require you to speak to a solicitor first who can then instruct the barrister before they act for you.

Barristers are usually self-employed and mostly charge a fixed cost for representations, although they can also advise in conference on an hourly basis.

How do I instruct a family solicitor?

If you’re not certain what kind of legal representation you need, we’d advise speaking to a family solicitor first. Some offer a discounted initial consultation where they can give you general advice on family law and charge a competitive rate thereafter.

Solicitors can sometimes act in court for you without the help of a barrister; but if you do need one, they will tell you.

Contact our family law solicitors in Bristol and South Gloucestershire

Whether you need legal advice regarding divorce and separation, child contact arrangements or fertility law, our specialist family lawyers are here to help. Call us on 0117 325 2929 or complete our online enquiry form.

Alternatively, you can make an immediate start online at a time that suits you.

Can I get direct access to a barrister?

In an era of diminished public funding for legal representation, many family law clients are now approaching barristers directly – known as direct access.

Provided you’re confident in filling out a lot of court paperwork yourself, direct access means you’ll only need to pay the barrister’s fees – which can help keep costs down.

However, not all barristers will take instructions via direct access and the Bar Council only recommends this route if your case is straightforward. In particular, if your case involves children, they recommend using a solicitor who specialises in child law.

Using a solicitor and a barrister

If your preferred barrister doesn’t take instructions from direct access clients, you’ll need to appoint a solicitor to use that barrister. One way you can do this and still keep costs down is to take out a fixed-fee package with a solicitor who will then instruct the barrister on your behalf. This way, you pay a competitive rate for the legal work outside of court, which often means the barrister needs to do less preparatory work on your case themselves, reducing the amount they charge you.

Most established family solicitors also have close working relationships with barristers, so they can advise you on your choice of advocate according to your specific needs.

Get in touch with our family law solicitors

Our family law solicitors are experienced in advising clients on a range of matters. We work with individuals and families across the South West from our six offices across Bristol and South Gloucestershire.

To speak to a family solicitor about your circumstances, call us on 0117 325 2929 or fill out our online enquiry form.


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