Solicitors can give you detailed advice on your legal rights and help you with your case. They can also represent you in court if necessary. This page explains more including how to get a solicitor and how they can help you.
What do I need a solicitor for?
If you're dealing with a housing problem, you may need a solicitor to help you enforce your rights. For example, you may need a solicitor to:
carry out the legal work when you buy or sell a home
check over a tenancy agreement for you
represent you in court if your landlord is trying to evict you
take legal action against your landlord if they break any of the terms of your tenancy agreement, for example by refusing to carry out repairs
help you if you are experiencing domestic abuse
help you sort out problems arising from a relationship breakdown.
How do I find a solicitor?
There are lots of different types of solicitor. They can either specialise in different areas of law (for example, family law or business law) or can deal with lots of different types of law (this is usually called 'general practice'). It's a bit like the different types of doctor you can find in a hospital as opposed to the GP you can find at your local doctors' surgery.
The type of solicitor you need will vary depending on your problem. For example:
if you are buying or selling a home, you'll need a solicitor who specialises in conveyancing law
if you are going through a relationship breakdown, you'll need a solicitor who is experienced in family law
if you are having problems with your landlord, you'll need a solicitor who specialises in housing law.
If you, or your family, don't already have a solicitor, it's hard to know where to start looking. There aren't many solicitors who specialise in housing law, but there are a number of law centres across Scotland with experience of housing law. If you're getting support and advice from an adviser, they may be able to put you in touch with a solicitor at a law centre who will take on your case.
Alternatively, you could contact the Law Society of Scotland to find a solicitor with relevant experience near you. Many people find a solicitor through personal recommendations from friends and family.
When you phone a solicitor's office, you'll probably speak to the receptionist first. If you tell them a bit about your problem, they should be able to let you know whether there's a solicitor in the office who can help you. You should then be able to make an appointment, although bear in mind that you won't necessarily get to see a solicitor straight away.
How much do solicitors cost?
When you first contact a solicitor, it's a good idea to ask for an estimate of the costs involved. This won't be an exact amount, but will give you an idea of how much you may have to pay. Some solicitors may offer an initial interview for free - your local Citizens Advice may have a list of solicitors that provide this service.
You might be able to get help to pay your solicitor's bills or you may have to pay for it yourself. For more information on how much it costs to get a lawyer, including how to get help with this, have look at our section on legal costs.
How can a solicitor help me?
Solicitors are experts in the law. They give specialised, impartial legal advice and information to their clients. They can tell you what your legal rights are and give you advice on whether or not it's worth taking your case to court. Have a look at the page about how the law can help you for more information on what solicitors do.
The advice your solicitor gives you will be in accordance with what the law says and how it applies to your specific circumstances. It's their job, not only to read what the law is, but to analyse it and put it into practice to help you as their client. If the law isn't clear, your solicitor will give you their legal opinion on your situation.
If your problem is complicated or unusual, your solicitor may not be able to give you an answer straight away but they have the training and skills to work out what's best to do in the circumstances. If your problem is outside their area of expertise, your solicitor will be able to refer you to another solicitor who has more knowledge or experience in that area.
Your solicitor can write letters and make phone calls on your behalf and negotiate a solution with your landlord or the council for example. They can also represent you in court. Some solicitors will also represent you in tribunals (or be able to refer you to a solicitor who will). If your case has to go to a higher court, your solicitor will be able to employ ('instruct') a solicitor-advocate or Advocate to represent you if that's necessary.
Your solicitor is there to speak on your behalf, represent your interests and give you legal advice. They may give you a range of options and leave you to decide. Your solicitor will give you advice and then 'take your instructions' before doing anything on your behalf. This means that you'll have to tell them what you want to do next.
Solicitors go through university and lots of specialised training to do their job. They have high professional standards and have to stick to a code of conduct at all times when doing their jobs. Although they are there to represent you, if you ask them to do anything that is against their professional code or ethics, they can stop acting on your behalf ('withdraw from acting').
What should I do before I see a solicitor?
Before you go to see your solicitor, it's a good idea to make a list of all the questions you want to ask them. Take the list to your appointment, so you don't forget anything - this should save you having to phone up with extra questions later on.
Do I have to take my solicitor's advice?
No. However, if you don't, or if you go against their advice, your solicitor may feel that they can no longer properly represent your interests and they may pull out of representing you (this is called 'withdrawing from acting' for you).
Remember that your solicitor will give you advice about your options according to what the law says and how it applies to you, so think very carefully before you decide to ignore their advice.
You can get a second opinion from another solicitor if you want to. However, you'll probably have to pay for this.
How do I complain about a solicitor?
If you don't understand anything your solicitor is telling you, or if they're not making themselves clear, speak to them about it. Don't be afraid to ask them to explain things again or contact you in a different way if that would suit you better (for example, it might be easier for you to get emails rather than letters).
If you are not happy with the service your solicitor is giving you and you want to complain about them, you can. Have a look at our page on complaining about a solicitor for more information.
Last updated: 29 December 2014
Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.
This content applies to Scotland only.