What questions should I ask to find a good lawyer?

Author: Anna Coward
What questions should I ask to find a good lawyer?

In our guide Finding the Right Lawyer, we looked at some of the questions you should ask to make sure you’re getting what you need. In our guide Seven Steps to Select your Lawyer, the Right Way, we explored this in even more detail. But what about things like regulated/unregulated specialists? Can you trust awards, legal review sites and websites? In this article we delve a little deeper into the subject and help you understand the things to look out for and ask, when finding a good lawyer.


Some legal services, such as certain probate services and litigation, can legally only be provided by those who are regulated within the legal services sector. 

There are, however, many services, which deal with legal issues, that are unregulated. An example might be an HR Consultancy, which is likely to advise on employment law risks and solutions. 

Sometimes unregulated providers are cheaper.  Qualifying as a professional lawyer takes time and money and many unqualified providers are able to keep costs down because they have not gone through this process. They may be able to bring long experience of working in their field. However, this needs to be balanced against whether their focus is too narrow and whether their expertise is, therefore, less useful to you - do you need an employment team that will be available to do everything from advising on contacts through to managing immigration and going to tribunals for you, or do you just need the contract advice?


Some accreditations are only awarded after a rigorous process, to individuals with real specialist experience and expertise. The membership of specialist associations is only a good indicator if the particular organisation has a reliable selection process - an example of this is someone who is a Chartered Tax Advisor. So, to decide whether these really mean anything you first need to understand whether the process has been rigorous or whether membership has simply been purchased or achieved through completing a form.

Awards are not generally a reliable indicator. Many awards have a commercial model closely linking them to the sale of advertising or corporate hospitality. 

In the legal sector there are two main directories worth considering – Chambers and Legal 500. These directories do give some basis for comparison and although ranking can be somewhat influenced by the amount of effort firms put into the submissions process, they do draw on client and industry referees, peer review, reviewer desk research and a submission of information by the firm itself.

In recent years more directories have entered the market, supposedly offering some degree of qualitative assessment. The majority of these, however, are simply advertising copy with a misleading wrapper.


In recent years the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has encouraged the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) and the Council for Licensed Conveyancers to engage with review websites - the idea being that these will provide consumers with reliable, authoritative information about legal services. However, for these to be truly valuable (and reflective of the marketplace) these rely both on the legal sector encouraging clients to post reviews and enough clients actually doing so to make it meaningful.  Unfortunately, research suggests that consumers have little belief in the usefulness and credibility of reviews posted online. Only a very small percentage of consumers of legal services have ever posted a review or would consider doing so. The SRA has chosen seven web platforms with whom to cooperate in a pilot of review sites but there are some issues that apply to all of them. First, they’re only as good as the reviews being posted and if few clients engage in wanting to do so the picture is narrow and subjective. Second, none of them are regulated by the SRA and there is no benchmark for what these reviews actually mean (in short, how reliable they are when compared to other, external standards). Third, in many cases they do very little more than act as a place for firms to collate favourable reviews. There is no requirement for firms to solicit reviews from all clients, nor to provide information on the total number of matters from which the favourable reviews have arisen. And, fourth, paid subscriptions to these sites allow firms to control their public marketing message through responses to any unfavourable reviews, as well as through providing links and further information. This can appear to promote those firms with subscriptions over those without - rather than based on merit. 

Until such time as the review process is properly regulated these sites should only be taken as a small contribution to the decision-making process. In short, these reviews need to be taken with a pinch of salt. There is no substitute - at the current time - for the expert insight and understanding professional advisors such as those at Ravenna can provide, in finding the right law firm for your needs.


Most law firm websites have cost the firm a lot of money and time. They’re likely to be the product of brand agency advice and are, therefore, rather like a professionally designed garden. They don’t really tell you much about the owner, other than that they favour a professional look, have a carefully curated image and have ample money. It can be hard to differentiate law firms, based on their websites.

So, here are a few things you could look out for:

  • An amateurish site which has not been updated recently is a negative indicator for the approach to practice generally. If the shop window is untidy and out of date what does it suggest the inside is like?
  • Firms usually attempt to demonstrate expertise by providing briefings on legal topics. The way in which these are written can give a good indication of the way in which they deliver legal services. Are they written in easy to understand language or do they look like they’re showing off about how much they know and trying to baffle you with jargon? Beware, however, as in some cases these may not have been written by the law firm themselves so take it all with a pinch of salt. 
  • Specific experience or identified clients plus client testimonials can give a flavour of a firm’s capability and attractiveness. Of course, they’re likely to have been cherry-picked but if they’re on the website they’ll (usually) have given permission and you can trust that they think the firm did, or does, a good job.
  • Perhaps the most useful indication of how a law firm works (and its people) is individual lawyer biographies. Looking at how they talk about themselves and prioritise information can be of great use when trying to decide whether they sound right for you. General descriptions of claimed areas of practice, that are not written to any common or reliable standard, however, tell you very little other than what legal work the lawyer thinks they do best (or would like to do more of, given the chance).
  • Hard information, such as client satisfaction measurements, complaints/ negligence claims, regulatory history or financial position are still rarely published on websites but are worth looking out for.
  • Finally, consider the things important to you. Firms are getting more transparent on websites about their values and approach to ethics and responsibility. If these things are important to you in making a decision, look out for this information.

Want to find the right lawyer for your business? Book your free 30-minute consultation with one of our advisors by clicking here. We’ll talk through the options and suggest at least two law firms that we think are a good fit for your business. We aren’t paid any commission and you won’t be under any pressure to work with any law firms we put forward.