Given the expense of using a lawyer, it is perhaps tempting to try to fund an alternative that will achieve the same ends for less outlay.
Many alternative sources of legal advice exist and, in many cases are the best first port of call, even if you do end up using a solicitor to handle your case.
It should be borne in mind that most solicitors will provide your initial meeting without charge.
Many industries and government agencies have their own dispute resolution schemes which are generally designed to enable consumers to make complaints and claim compensation without the need to employ a lawyer to handle their claims.
If you have a complaint against a financial services provider, for example, the Financial Services Ombudsman can settle disputes and award compensation, while a dispute with your council can be referred to the Local Government Ombudsman.
Other industries have voluntary schemes operated by their trade associations, so it is always worth checking if a company you are in dispute with is a member.
For straightforward transactions, such as making a basic will or drawing up a rental agreement, standard forms can be bought off the shelf or on the internet. Companies such as Lawpack (www.lawpack.co.uk
) can provide forms and guidance on simple legal matters.
For many consumer matters, employment disputes, immigration issues and housing or welfare benefits queries, Citizens’ Advice Bureaux, or law centres can provide free initial advice and may also be able to handle your case.
Some law firms and barristers chambers offer legal advice for free (pro bono), either through volunteering their lawyers to work at law centres or directly.
Legal help is also available on the telephone. The Community Legal Services offers a free advice line (0845 345 4 345) for those who qualify for Legal Aid.
Online services also exist which can handle your house purchase, or even a divorce.
A further option is to represent yourself, although extreme caution should be exercised if you do.
In all cases, indeed, care needs to be taken. The law is rarely straightforward and even the simplest of transactions can go askew.
Conveyancing, for example, is a relatively routine process, but can be littered with pitfalls.
While the mechanics maybe straightforward, do you know what could happen if the process goes wrong?
To use a motoring analogy, a tyre fitter might be able to change the oil on your car, but would he be able to spot that something more serious was wrong?
If your matter is complicated - or the outcome of your case has potentially serious consequences – then finding the best legal advice will always provide the best value in the long run.