You are being prosecuted for a motoring offence. You either did not do it or wish to admit it but cannot afford to be disqualified. Or, perhaps you are unsure if you have a valid ‘defence’ to the charge. You are feeling anxious as you cannot afford to lose your driving licence so you want to find a firm that specialises in this field. You have never been in this position before. You search online. When you put ‘Motoring Offence Solicitors’ into the search box pages of listings appear. Which firm of solicitors should you choose?
Your impulse is to contact a firm on the first page. But, how did they get there? Have they paid for their position (by taking out an Advert)? Is their ranking based on their level of success in court or more on the size of their marketing budget? You notice that on their website all of the reviews are outstanding.
Tip: Don’t just look at the reviews on their own websites as you will only find the ones they have chosen to publicise (they probably would only post the good reviews and ignore all the bad ones)! Look to see if they have a Google My Business or other online profile where they can’t select which reviews are posted. Then see how their reviewers rate them ie what clients have said and posted online independently. If the only reviews you can find are on their own websites there may be a reason for this!
Your driving licence is essential to you and so you want to consult specialists in this field. Their website claims they are. But, does it say they specialise exclusively in this field? Check to see if the Firm does a range of other types of work but with a separate page or website for privately funded motoring offences. If this is the case the vast majority of the work this Firm does may not be motoring matters at all!
Tip: check all of the pages and other websites the Firm has to see if they specialise exclusively in this field or if, in fact, motoring offences are only a small part of their work.
Success Rates Tables
You want to instruct a firm with a very good track record of success. The website shows a ‘success rates’ table claiming they enjoy a very high success rate in court. Ask yourself if the Solicitors Firms which publish such tables all use the same criteria for ‘success’. If they don’t how can you compare one Firm’s ‘success rate’ with that of another? In any event, is there any way of knowing if the published information is independently verified?
Tip: Be careful before placing reliance on such tables as each case turns on its own facts.
Nationwide Motoring Offence Solicitors
You have found a Firm which assures you that motoring matters is all they do. Good. Furthermore, they provide nationwide cover. Great. They even say they will obtain a specialist barrister to represent you at court. Perfect! (is your initial reaction). In this type of situation you may be well advised to do as follows:-
Tip 1: Check to see if the person who is going to take your instructions (once you engage the Firm) will meet you face to face or only over the phone. In our experience, at face to face meetings it is less likely that something important will be missed. In legal matters one important detail missed or misunderstanding could change the outcome in court.
Tip 2: Check to see if the person who will take your instructions is the same as the person you originally spoke to when you first contacted them and if that person will be a qualified solicitor or just a paralegal as, to save costs, some solicitors firms delegate the important task of taking instructions and giving advice to non-lawyer staff!
Solicitors that will instruct a Barrister to represent you at Court
The service many firms offer may fall short in some, or all, of the respects set out above (which is not necessarily an issue so long as you understand this before you engage them). However, some will say, don’t worry about any of that, we will instruct a barrister for you from our specialist panel of motoring barristers, so, rest assured, you will be represented by a specialist advocate from the senior branch of the profession.
Tip 1: Check to see if they are going to brief a named barrister who is committed to doing your case or if they are sending your case to a group of barristers (for the group’s clerk to allocate the case to an individual barrister close to the court date). Then look at the barrister’s website to see if that particular individual specialises exclusively in motoring offences or whether it is just one of many strings to his/her bow.
Tip 2: Check to see if the barrister has online reviews for motoring matters on a Google My Business or other online profile (not just on his/her own website).
Tip 3: Ask the solicitors what portion of the fees paid will actually go to the barrister they will instruct for you (the proportion of the fee payable to the barrister will usually reflect his/her seniority and reputation. If you think the effectiveness of the barrister’s court room performance is likely to be an important factor in whether you have a successful outcome you may expect the barrister to be paid a proportionate amount of the overall fee).
Barrister v Solicitor. What’s the difference?
It’s a bit like when you go to see the doctor, who covers a wide range of medical complaints – he/she might offer you the option of seeing a specialist consultant at the hospital. Similarly you might want an experienced court room advocate who practices in a niche area to advise you and to present your case rather than a solicitor. If you think you would like the equivalent of a specialist, at consultant level, handling your case then you would probably opt for a barrister to represent you rather than a solicitor.
How should I choose between a solicitor or barrister?
If you need help with case preparation such as the taking of formal witness statements, ongoing correspondence with third parties and other investigatory and / or preparatory work (work collectively known as ‘litigation’) then, traditionally, solicitors are better placed to help you with this as their work set up is geared to giving ongoing assistance throughout a case. Of course, this can be very costly, especially if you engage a reputable firm of solicitors. However, if your matter does not involve more than minimal litigation, such as is often the case with ‘guilty’ pleas and many Magistrates’ Court trials, then you may not need a solicitor’s help at all. If what you essentially require is knowledgeable advice as to your options and / or skilled representation in court you may think you would be better advised to go straight to the expert and instruct a public access barrister.
Tip: if you need to pay for ongoing help with ‘litigation’ then your case may be better suited to a solicitor’s expertise (or a solicitor at first, and then, a barrister). But, if you mainly need expert advice and / or representation in court why not go straight to consultant level and instruct a barrister yourself? You may well find it surprisingly cost effective especially when compared with the rates a reputable, senior solicitor would charge you.
Public Access Barristers. What are these?
It used to be the case that if you wanted advice or court representation from a lawyer that you had to approach a solicitor in the first instance. If a barrister’s expertise was sought the solicitor would instruct the barrister for you. The law has now changed. There is now no requirement for you to engage a solicitor first or at all. You can simply engage a barrister directly yourself.
Tip: If you use a public access barrister rather than a solicitor who instructs a barrister for you you will only have to pay for one lawyer. Plus, you can choose the barrister yourself.
Given the value of your driving licence to you, and what you stand to lose if you are disqualified from driving, you may want to find a lawyer of whom the following can be said:-
- He/she is very experienced
- Specialises exclusively in motoring offence matters
- You can read motoring offence articles online he/she has personally written (to assess his/her expertise)
- He/she has a track record of considerable success as can be seen from reviews independently posted (such as on a Google My Business or other online profile rather than only on his/her own website)
- He/she will handle your initial telephone enquiry, will be the lawyer who later takes your instructions in a face to face meeting and, so long as you can provide your court date, who also represents you in court ie you will have the assurance of knowing that you will be dealing with the same, experienced expert from start to finish.
Tip: If you are having trouble finding a lawyer who fits all of these criteria contact Kent Traffic Law today and speak to a barrister (who does fulfil these criteria). A telephone review of your situation by our motoring offence expert is without obligation and will only cost you the time you spend to make the call!