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Going legal!

December 11, 2020 5:00 PM
By Alison Eden in https://www.middevonadvertiser.co.uk/

My own recent experience and that of residents needing legal support prompts me to share some potential tips that I hope will be helpful to all. The sad truth is that if you can't afford to enforce your rights, you have no rights.

This is the stark truth of today's Britain. Please note I'm not legally qualified.

First of all, people often don't get much warning that they need legal advice. At the moment that they most need expert help, they are faced with huge and unplanned-for expense.

Solicitors have to be close to 100% billable. This means that they need to charge a client account for everything they do. So you might think it's ok to send 10 emails with the information they need from you but you will be charged for opening each one. And that's fair. It's real time that's being used up. You can minimise the time they spend by being organized. Here is how:

• Co-ordinate your information. Send one email with all the info attached. Not 10 emails that each must be opened, read and filed.

• Ask yourself, 'what is the purpose of my communication?' If you just want the solicitor to sympathise and say 'you poor thing' don't send it.

• Write on a large piece of paper 'my solicitor is not my friend, therapist or parent' and stick it somewhere visible on your computer. This may stop you ranting, trying to entertain, trying to make them like you etc. Of course they like you. You're paying them to help. Wanting a solicitor to be a chum is a particular danger in divorce situations; these are a battlefield often anyway. Sending lengthy emails detailing the latest horrors is pointless unless you're creating a case for unreasonable behaviour!

• Ask your solicitor how you can keep the costs down. They won't mind being asked and it could save you a lot of unnecessary expense

• Ask your solicitor what their hourly charges are and write that down on another piece of paper and stick it somewhere very visible!

• If you're lucky enough to have one, check your house insurance policy. You may have legal cover without realizing it.

• Join a trade union! Regardless of your politics it could be the best thing you ever do. When my daughter was born, I was helped successfully by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) who saved my sanity by taking on negotiations with an employer and I didn't have to pay a single penny. You do though need to be a member of a professional trade union before you need the help. So do it now! You can call the TUC to help work out which trade union is the right one for you. You have a legal right to belong to a trade union and it doesn't matter if you are the only person in your work place to belong to one. Your employers don't need to know till you want them to know.

Many solicitors will ask for payment on account before they start work and most do not accept credit cards. This is entirely fair. The reality of this is though that when you need the help, you may not be able to get it right away. If you are employed, have you thought how you would raise £600 or more if you needed to quickly? If, for example, you heard you were being made redundant and believed it was for discriminatory reasons.

The median weekly income in Devon for a full-time employee is £528. If this is you, that likely puts you out of the range of eligibility for legal aid especially if you have a mortgage on a house that's partly paid off.

Think now, how you would cope if you suddenly needed legal assistance. Find out now, even if you don't think you have any need if you could get legal aid. This website will do a quick calculation for you https://www.gov.uk/check-legal-aid

Things are about to get a lot tougher for the working population thanks to Brexit. So my message, which is intended to be a positive one, is get ready, there are sensible things you can do to protect against future problems especially employment related.

Being a trade union member saved my sanity, my finances and gave me a compromise agreement that enabled me to rebuild my life.

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