I have legal aid with another firm, I am interested in changing solicitors and want to transfer my case to Tuckers Solicitors. How do I do that?
Firstly let’s consider the reasons for a transfer. There are many reasons why defendants may wish to change solicitors. Sometimes it seems to be as simple as a clash of personality with the solicitor in your current firm, sometimes it is much more serious and you may feel that your solicitors are not acting properly in your defence.
If you have legal aid, it is important to remember that your legal aid costs are being contributed by the public purse. The Legal Aid Agency would prefer not to have to pay two solicitors if not necessary. For that reason, it is the Court who decide whether you will be allowed to change, and they will investigate the reasons behind an Application to Change Solicitors thoroughly before they allow any transfers to go ahead. The Court can agree or refuse your Application.
Reasons for Changing Solicitors
It is crucial that your reasons fit into specific brackets which will be examined by the Court. The current guidelines state that your application will only succeed if:
EITHER if the court is satisfied that effective representation can no longer be provided by your present solicitors because:
- there has been a breakdown in the relationship between you and the present solicitors; OR
- there is some other compelling reason;
OR if the court is satisfied that:
- your present solicitors consider they have a duty to withdraw from the case in accordance with their professional rules of conduct; OR
- your present solicitors are no longer able to represent you through circumstances outside their control.
These reasons are crucial to your success. The Court will consider whether there are changes or adjustments which your current firm could make to satisfy your concerns, to avoid the cost of paying a new solicitor.
Some examples of previous reasons given by defendants who were NOT allowed a transfer are:
- “I don’t really like my solicitor, they are negative about my case.” In this instance the Court might suggest that a different solicitor in the same firm should be used.
- “I am coming up to my trial and I am not having as much contact as I’d like with my solicitors.” In this case the Court might consider that the case has already been prepared for trial and it is less likely that a transfer will be granted nearer to the trial.
- “I don’t agree with my solicitor’s advice about the strength of the evidence.” The Court will be likely to conclude that a new solicitor will not consider the case any differently and therefore you will need to consider that advice as accurate.
Some examples of successful applications to transfer are:
- “I have not received any communication, letters, e-mails or calls, since my first hearing, despite leaving messages.” The Court will of course investigate this with your current firm before agreeing.
- “Despite having legal aid my firm did not turn up to the hearing and did not provide reasons.” The Court will investigate why but this is more likely to be successful.
- “I have lost confidence in the firm completely – they did not follow the instructions I gave them in court.” The Court would consider this a serious breach of professional obligations.
If you feel that you have enough reasons which amount to such a breakdown in a relationship between you and your current solicitors that effective representation can no longer be provided, then you should proceed to make an Application to Transfer Solicitors.
Steps to take to make an Application to Transfer
- Speak to one of our solicitors at Tuckers Solicitors and explain that you wish to transfer to us. You will be asked to provide various details and possibly have a brief appointment in order to go through an Application to Transfer. The solicitor will be able to advise you on whether we can take your case on and take your instructions on the reasons you wish to transfer to us.
- Complete the form “Application by Person with Legal Aid to Change Solicitor” which can be found here: https://www.justice.gov.uk/courts/procedure-rules/criminal/docs/october-2015/rep001-eng.pdf. You might need the help of a Tuckers Solicitor to complete this. This needs to be sent to both your current firm of solicitors AND to the Court. Tuckers Solicitors can do this for you.
- Notify your current firm that you are making an Application to Change Solicitor and that they will be hearing from the Court and the new solicitor.
The Court will send the form to your current solicitor and ask for their comments. Once they have considered their response they will make a decision. This usually takes about 1-2 weeks so it is very important to do this early. In some circumstances, where it is no fault of your own, they may make an urgent decision.
What if my Application to Change Solicitors is refused?
This means that the Court has considered all the circumstances and decided that it is possible for you to move forward with you current firm representing you. This is a final decision and you should immediately contact your existing firm to try and work out a way to continue preparation for trial. It is very unlikely that the firm will treat you badly as a result of an Application to Change Solicitor.
What happens if my Application is granted?
This means that your legal aid will be transferred to Tuckers Solicitors who will be keen to start working and preparing your case. They will be entitled to all of the prosecution papers in your case and your old solicitors are likely to assist with relevant information which has already been served on the Court. It might take 1-2 weeks to gather all of this information before Tuckers can have an effective appointment with you to take your full instructions.
FAQ on transferring solicitors
- I am paying privately for my current firm, I now wish to apply for legal aid, can I do this?
Yes. You should first check if you are eligible for legal aid. Tuckers Legal Aid department will be able to go through a legal aid application and a means test with you over the telephone to advise you whether you would be eligible.
- I have legal aid with my current firm, I have made an Application to Change Solicitors which has been refused. I now wish to pay Tuckers privately, can I do this?
Yes. You would need to agree some private fees with Tuckers first. Then we can notify the Court that you wish to revoke your Legal Aid Order and we can continue to represent you privately.
- I have been refused an Application to Change Solicitors. I am still unhappy. Can I make another one?
Yes. However the Court are likely to make the same decision unless something else has happened or there is a change of circumstances.
- My current solicitors state that there is a “conflict” and they are professionally embarrassed. Can I change solicitors?
Yes. This type of Application will be almost fast-tracked, if the solicitor agrees that they are unable to represent you.