A solicitor is a type of lawyer who is qualified to offer legal advice and services.
Unlike barristers, solicitors are allowed to join together to form partnerships and they are allowed to advertise their services.
Experienced and/or specialist solicitors can also apply to become a senior counsel and use the letters SC after their name. Solicitors who are appointed senior counsel remain solicitors.
What does a solicitor do?
Solicitors have a wide range of different functions.
A solicitor may give you legal advice about:
- Property matters, such as buying a house or flat, referred to as ‘conveyancing’
- Bereavement matters, such as drafting a will, powers of attorney or dealing with the estate of somebody who has died
- Disputes or disagreements you have with another party, for example, with your family, employer or neighbour
- Taking or defending a case, for example if you have been involved in an accident or traffic collision
- Any other legal matter you bring before them
Your solicitor may represent you in any of these matters and deal with the other party in the case on your behalf.
Solicitors in court
If you are involved in a court case, your solicitor will manage the case and represent you when dealing with the other party.
Your solicitor will:
- Send letters to the other party on your behalf
- File all necessary court documents
- Contact any witnesses called to give evidence in the case
If it is necessary to involve a barrister in the case, your solicitor will brief the barrister by sending them all of the necessary documents and information.
Your solicitor may also actually represent you in court, although in the High Court and the Supreme Court, a barrister will usually be engaged. Solicitors do not have to wear any special clothes when in court.
If there is a barrister involved in the case, the solicitor will usually sit facing the barrister in the bench under the judge. If the barrister needs a matter to be clarified, he or she can then lean over to ask the solicitor.
You can read more about the functions and duties of different individuals in a court of law.
How much does a solicitor cost?
Solicitors’ fees vary depending on the nature of the legal work completed.
You are legally entitled to clear written information about the costs of legal services you receive. This usually comes in two parts.
1. Costs Notice, or Notice of Costs
Your solicitor is required to set out the likely costs of the legal services to be provided before you agree to proceed further. This is called a Costs Notice, or a Notice of Costs.
If your solicitor is not able to provide you with the exact costs, they must still give you a Costs Notice which explains how the costs will be calculated. They must update you in writing with details of the actual costs as soon as they become aware of this.
2. Bill of Costs
When the legal services have been provided and it is time for you to pay, your solicitor must give you a breakdown of all the charges. This is called a Bill of Costs.
This should contain a summary of the legal services you received, details of the charges incurred, details on how you can challenge any aspect of the bill, and other information relating to the case and calculation of costs.
You usually have 30 days to pay the bill, or, if you are not satisfied with any aspect of the bill, you have 21 days to write to your solicitor and outline your concerns which they must try to resolve informally with you.
No foal, no fee
Many solicitors take on cases on a "no foal, no fee" basis. This means that you will not be charged a fee by your solicitor if you do not win the case. This is most common in personal injuries cases (where you have been injured in an accident).
How to become a solicitor
To become a solicitor, you must complete an apprenticeship of at least 2 years and you must pass exams set by the Law Society at Blackhall Place in Dublin. You can read about how to become a solicitor on the Law Society website.
If you are a qualified lawyer from outside of Ireland, you can convert your qualifications to practice as a solicitor in Ireland.
Where to find a solicitor
The Law Society maintains a list of solicitors who hold a practicing certificate in Ireland. You can search the Law Society website to find a solicitor or firm.
The Law Society also maintains a list of solicitors who are willing to take legal action against another solicitor.
How do I complain about a solicitor?
The Law Society sets down rules and regulations about how solicitors may conduct their business. Before 7 October 2019, complaints about solicitors were made to the Law Society.
Since 7 October 2019, if you have a complaint about inadequate services, excessive costs or alleged misconduct against solicitors, you can make a complaint to the Legal Services Regulatory Authority (LSRA).