How do you know if your personal injury solicitor is really an ‘expert’ in accident claims?
When you first speak to him or her you may only get their name and title.
You might feel awkward about asking them for their professional qualifications, so that without any further information you have no idea if they are truly capable of dealing with your personal injury claim, or if they are specialists in another area of law.
Luckily, the internet has come to the rescue. By using these five free tools you can quickly and easily check your personal injury solicitor’s credentials, and give yourself peace-of-mind. Ready? Here we go.
1. The Law Society’s ‘find a solicitor’ service
The Law Society, the representative body of solicitors in England and Wales, maintains a register (or ‘roll’) of solicitors through its regulatory arm, the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
To see if your personal injury solicitor is included on the roll, meaning that they are professionally qualified and properly regulated, go to the Find a Solicitor service (click on this link) and enter the solicitor’s last name. If you also have it, enter their first name, firm, and location.
You will be taken to a page where you can find their roll number, admission date, firm details, areas of law they specialise in, and details of any accreditation schemes.
This is a good place to start your research as it confirms basic details of your solicitor, but you will want to find out more.
2. The Law Society’s Personal Injury Accreditation Scheme search
Once you know that your legal representative is a qualified solicitor, how can you find out if he or she is an expert in personal injury law?
Answer: ask the solicitors’ own representatives, the Law Society.
According to the Law Society’s website, solicitors who have been appointed to the Law Society’s expert Personal Injury Panel:
‘go through rigorous examination and testing to demonstrate that they have a high level of knowledge, skills and experience in dealing with personal injury cases.’
Getting appointed to the Personal Injury Panel is hard. Less than 1,000 of all practising solicitors (over 130,000 in 2013) have been accepted to this expert group, which the Law Society calls a ‘community of excellence’.
To find out if your lawyer is a member of this élite group of personal injury solicitors, try these free tools:
i) Review your personal injury solicitor’s entry through the ‘find a solicitor’ service (see 1. Above). You’ll find out if they are a member of the Personal Injury panel by checking if ‘Accreditation schemes: Member of the Personal Injury Panel’ is shown. If this is not listed under ‘Areas of law’ your solicitor has probably not been appointed to the Panel. (See below for why you can not be certain.)
ii) Download the list of members from this page and see if your solicitor is among them. (Warning: this is a long .pdf document which is updated monthly, so if your solicitor has been appointed to the Personal Injury Panel more recently than that they may not show up on this list.).
iii) go to the Law Society Approved website and type in the postcode of your solicitor’s office. If the firm’s name comes up, you will know that someone there is appointed to the Personal Injury Panel (but it might not necessarily be your solicitor).
3. The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (‘APIL’) Accreditation Scheme Search
In a similar way to the Law Society, the APIL accreditation scheme show details of personal injury solicitors (or other legal professionals) who have been independently assessed by APIL as having sufficient experience, ability, training, and commitment to the rights of accident victims.
APIL is a group of around 4,500 specialist personal injury lawyers who are dedicated to personal injury claims victims.
The APIL accreditation scheme has been in place since 1999. Members must commit to 16 hours of specialist training in personal injury law each year, and their levels of experience are reflected in their status within the organisation. For example, Senior Litigators must have at least five years’ experience, be capable of running cases without supervision, and be prepared to take cases to trial. They can also provide training and supervision to others within their own firm.
You can check if your personal injury solicitor is a member of APIL, and their status, by clicking here and entering their details.
4. The APIL Accredited Practice Search
APIL also have accredited practices.
They are law firms which are assessed and approved by the organisation and have at least one lawyer of ‘Senior Litigator’ status or above.
The firms must:
- be regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority;
- show a high standard of ‘client care’;
- be committed to training and development;
- have low supervision ratios;
- have a documented quality assurance procedure; and
- agree to have their performance monitored by APIL to make sure standards are maintained.
You can search APIL’s database of accredited firms here by entering the name of your personal injury solicitor.
If the firm is accredited, a box will appear confirming that it is an ‘Accredited Personal Injury Practice’.
5. Online reviews and personal recommendations
The above tools will give you great information about your personal injury solicitor’s qualifications and accreditations. But what are they like to deal with? To find out the answer to that, ask for personal recommendations from friends and family.
If they are not available, online review sites like www.yell.com can help.
On yell.com, type in the firm name in the ‘I’m looking for’ box and click ‘search’.
When the firm name comes up click on it to go to the firm’s listing, scroll down and read any reviews. If more than three reviews are shown, go to the next page.
The firm’s website, blog, Facebook, google+, twitter, and LinkedIn profiles may also help you by giving you details of your personal injury solicitor, their professional accreditations, and any legal articles they have written which demonstrate their knowledge.
Why an expert Personal Injury Solicitor is a good choice
It’s worth taking the time to research your solicitor before instructing him or her. After all, you will be relying on them to look after your accident claim and may be working with them for some time.
Note that these tools may not be accurate or up to date. If in doubt, ask your personal injury solicitor directly. Gaining qualifications and accreditations is hard work, so they will be more than happy to tell you.
I hope that by showing you these free tools you will choose the right personal injury solicitor to look after your accident claim.
If you want to speak to an expert solicitor about personal injury claims, contact me, Kevin Donoghue, on 0151 933 1474 or via my firm’s website, www.donoghue-solicitors.co.uk. Kevin Donoghue is a qualified personal injury solicitor (lawyer) who represents clients throughout England and Wales in personal injury claims. He is a member of the Law Society’s Personal Injury Panel and a Senior Litigator with the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers. Donoghue Solicitors is a corporate accredited practice with APIL.