Choosing a Solicitor


Solicitors are practising lawyers and officers of the Courts who have had a legal education and, who have passed examinations. Under the Solicitors Northern Ireland Order 1976 solicitors in Northern Ireland have a monopoly on the legal process involved in the transfer of land (conveyancing).

Solicitors are regulated by this statute and the Law Society of Northern Ireland in relation to the fees they are allowed to charge and how they may advertise their services. They are also subject to spot checks by the Law Society on their management of client monies and have to undergo an annual independent audit of their accounts and disclosure is made to the Law Society of any accounting irregularities. Solicitors have to annually pay a contribution to a compensation fund which is used when solicitors commit fraud or become bankrupt. This fund has made sure no client in Northern Ireland has ever lost money as a result of a solicitors fraud or insolvency.


In Northern Ireland estate agents find the buyer and agree price details; solicitors do the paperwork. contracts for the sale and purchase of land must be in writing. For this reason and because the process involves so much money solicitors act for sellers and buyers to advise and protect their respective interests. This process is called conveyancing.

conveyancing procedures involve the preparation of a contract by the sellers solicitor and the examination of the contract and the title (ownership) documents by the buyers solicitor prior to signature. The seller is obligated to disclose all his knowledge about the property but the buyer carries responsibility for buying the property in its current physical condition. The process is complicated and will take longer than you think.

Which firm to use?

conveyancing is complex legal work. In Northern Ireland fees charged for the conveyancing of residential property are subject to a competitive marketplace. Some tips are:

  • Solicitors' conveyancing fees vary considerably between firms and there are lots of firms. Some firms adhere closely to traditional fee scale rates (1% of the price + an hourly charge for time) and refuse to quote for business. Others are keen to give competitive quotations.
  • Some firms give competitive verbal fee quotations over the phone. Do not instruct a firm on the basis of a verbal quotation over the phone. Only consider instructing a firm which has provided you with a detailed written quotation. Solicitors are obligated by Law Society of Northern Ireland regulations to provide you with written terms of business detailing the pricing arrangements in a specific detailed form.
  • Check the written quotation details not only the firms proposed fees but also all the tax, registration, search and other expenses involved. The additional expenses should be similar for all firms although some firms identify these costs more clearly.
  • Very often the presentation of the quotation information is a good guide to how organised and efficient the firm is. Most of your business will be transacted over the phone or by post with perhaps only one visit to the solicitors office necessary so a local firm is not essential. All your business can be effected over the phone or post if you want.
  • Does the firm:
    • advertise it clearly wants this type of work?
    • do the staff have pleasant and friendly telephone manners?
    • have you been given good detailed written quotation information?

If a firm passes the above tests don't quibble if the professional fees are a few pounds (rather than hundreds of pounds!) more.


A solicitor is responsible not only to his seller client but also to the sellers lender who must be paid off the entirety of the existing loan. Similarly a solicitor for a buyer is also legally responsible to the lender providing the new mortgage money and has to report to that lender on behalf of and at the expense of the buyer.

Home Charter Scheme

The Law Society of Northern Ireland have a compulsory kitemark quality scheme to set standards of quality of work by solicitors. Whilst the scheme does not measure how quickly or efficiently solicitors do their work it does set minimum standards and tasks which are expected to be adhered to by all Solicitors in all residential conveyancing matters. Some firms provide better standards and speed of service at more competitive rates than others. The scheme provides a benchmark against which complaints can be measured.

Legal content supplied by Wilson Nesbitt Solicitors.