Finding a suitable lawyer when you need them most is hard enough, but even harder when you have a disability. So, how can you decide which one to use with accessibility in mind? How do you find a disability friendly lawyer?
Solicitors work in the legal sector, so they should know exactly what to do to live up to expectations of the Equality Act. While most solicitors provide a good service and sound advice, there are some who fall short.
7 Tips for Finding a Disability-Friendly Lawyer
Perhaps you’re already working with a firm but aren’t happy with the current service provided, or how they have communicated the advice. If this is the case, don’t hesitate to look elsewhere; changing your solicitordoesn’t have to be difficult.
So, whether you’re divorcing from your spouse, would like help writing a will, or your child has experienced a severe birth injury, here are 10 top tips for finding a disability-friendly solicitor…
1. Do Your Research
Before talking to anyone else about your decision to find a solicitor, ensure you do your research to form your own opinion. The Law Society’s website is a great starting point, and allows you to search for multiple reputable solicitors in your area.
What’s more, the Civil Legal Advice Line can help you find a lawyer if you qualify for legal aid, particularly if you or your child requires special education needs.
Making a list of the pros and cons for each solicitor is a good idea so you don’t get confused when referring back to them later on. You’ll be in better stead to make a decision once you’ve had a clear read through each company’s website.
2. Ask for Recommendations
Once you’ve taken some time out to research your options, ask friends and family if they’ve ever used a solicitor before, and whether they have any recommendations. Unfortunately, most people require legal advice at some point in their life, so the chances of receiving good and bad feedback is incredibly likely.
Although it’s beneficial to gather thoughts from your loved ones, remember that everyone’s needs are different so what might not have worked for them might not work for you, and vice-versa. Also bear in mind their reason for seeing a lawyer, as it may differ from yours.
3. Call the Equality Advisory & Support Service
The Equality Advisory & Support Service is a helpline that advises and assists individuals on issues relating to equality and human rights.
Unlike a solicitor, the EASS is unable to offer legal advice, but it is worthwhile contacting them to find out how they can make legal resources more accessible for you. For instance, they can provide translation to Deaf members of society and, in certain circumstances, a trained lay advocate for individuals with a learning difficulty.
4. Enquire About Assistive Technology
Types of assistive technology (AT) vary; from walking sticks, apps that read text out loud, to keyboards with large buttons. Whether it be a device, software, or piece of equipment, all forms of assistive technology help people with disabilities learn, communicate, or function better.
If your solicitor claims to be disability-friendly, they should have these resources readily available and be willing to provide different formats of legal documentation. Alternatively, contact a charity or helpline that may be able to assist.
5. Look at What Field they Specialise In
Although it’s important to ensure that the solicitor you’re choosing is accessible, don’t overlook how specialised they are in the area of work you’re seeking support in.
For instance, if you’re having problems regarding custody, make sure you seek a family law solicitor and don’t settle for a less experienced one. It may seem hard to find a balance between the two. But, as discussed above, there are organisations out there that can help break down the barriers between solicitors and disabled individuals.
The most important thing to ensure is that the solicitors are open to trying new methods of communication to relay legal advice in the clearest manner possible.
6. Question if the Firm Has Undergone Training
Has the firm you’ve decided to team up with undertaken any recent disability awareness training? Have they won any Law Awards for diversity and inclusion? The companies that care about catering to specific disability needs will go out of their way to achieve these sorts of certifications.
You’ll often be able to tell if a firm has been trained in accessibility. Keep an eye on the terminology they use, how they interact around you, and the types of questions they’re asking.
An excellent disability-friendly solicitor will not only be experienced in their field of work, but they’ll also be passionate about changing attitudes surrounding disabilities.
7. Ask if They’ll Meet Up Outside of the Office
Whether you’re physically or mentally disabled, travel can be challenging. Because of this, pressure to attend a meeting in a solicitor’s office might be daunting.
Virtual meetings are commonplace nowadays and are likely to be the easiest solution, particularly if you’re deaf and would like an interpreter to attend. Similarly, if you’re blind or visually impaired, a simple phone call could suffice.
If you are keen to meet in person, suggest having the meeting in a location you feel most comfortable, like your home or a café at the end of your road. Any firm claiming to be disability-friendly should be more than willing to accommodate.
Finding a Disability Friendly Lawyer
Remember, if you’re not feeling as if you’re getting the best out of your lawyer, you can always change your mind, even mid claim.
Customer satisfaction is everything these days, and there’s a lot to be said for law firms that don’t live up to your expectations. Sometimes, you just need a little gentle reminder that you’re the client and what you say goes.
Hopefully these top tips will help you on your way to finding an experienced, disability-friendly lawyer.