Check the status of the person who will be assigned to deal with your case
There are all sorts of titles given to people who deal with personal injury claims. It is important to know who you are dealing with and how many years of qualification they have, so that you can gauge whether they have sufficient knowledge, skill and training to deal with your particular case. The level of expertise you need will of course depend on the complexity of your case.
There are only effectively 3 categories:
- Legal Execuitves
- Non-qualified staff
Unfortunately, some of the titles given to individuals within law firms do not reveal whether or not that person has any legal qualification. In those instances, you should enquire further. Here are some of the most common terms used:
- Fee Earner – this simply means a person who earns money for the firm. In some cases, secretaries can be fee earners. This term tells you nothing about their qualification, training and experience in personal injury litigation.
Fee Earners are graded by the Court :
Grade A – Solicitors with over eight years post qualification experience including at least eight years litigation experience.
Grade B – Solicitors and legal executives with over four years post qualification experience including at least four years litigation experience.
Grade C – Other solicitors and legal executives and fee earners of equivalent experience. Grade D – Trainee solicitors, paralegals and other fee earners.
Further details can be found at:
- Case Handler – as above, this tells you nothing about their qualification, training or experience.
- Paralegal – refers to a person who has no legal qualification and who generally works under the direct supervison of a qualified lawyer.
- Legal Executive – a person who is a Fellow of the Institute of Legal Executives. Training takes the form of ILEX examinations and 5 years of training with a qualified solicitor. Individuals who are simply “members” of the Institute have not yet obtained their legal qualification. Legal Executives do not generally have rights of audience in front of a Judge in open Court save for specific matters such as unopposed applications, unless they have attained a special advocacy qualification from ILEX.
- Trainee – refers to a person who has completed all examinations to become a solicitor and who is in the course of a 2-year training contract with a firm of solicitors.
- Solicitor – a person who has obtained a degree and gone on to take the Law Society’s examinations and who has undertaken a Training Contract. Solicitors have rights of audience in front of all Judges in open Court, save for the High Court, the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords (unless they have attained a higher rights of audience qualification). Every solicitor practising in England and Wales, who holds a current practising certificate is registered with the Law Society and their details, including number of years of qualification, can be found on the Law Society’s Website: www.lawsociety.org.uk/choosingandusing/findasolicitor.law
- Associate – this is a term often used for solicitors and legal executives who have been promoted within their respective firms. Once again, their legal training and experience should be identified.
- Partner – Only qualified solicitors can become partners. Legal Executives can be given the title of “partner equivalent”. Partners are the owners of the firm.
- Principal – This is another term for the owner of the firm. However, it does not mean that this person is necessarily a solicitor or a legal executive.
Choose a solicitor with experience for your particular case
There will be specific law relating to some types of accident, for instance, accidents at work are governed by 6 main statutes (Acts of Parliament). They lay down what is required in order to prove negligence and breach of duty against an employer. Conversely, an accident which happens in a public place, or which is caused by an animal, are governed by different laws. Ensuring that your chosen solicitor has the experience to deal with your case will speed up the process and give you the peace of mind of knowing that your claim has been thoroughly investigated to produce the optimum outcome for you.
There are specific types of injury which require specialist knowledge. For instance, brain injury and spinal injury. If your solicitor is familiar with your particular type of injury, they will know which types of expert to instruct in order to obtain a diagnosis and a prognosis, what specific questions to ask of each expert, and what rehabilitation might be offered to you in the meantime.