The court service of England and Wales seeks to accommodate and assist people acting in person. This is the case whether you have a criminal, civil, matrimonial or employment problem. However acting for oneself in any court or tribunal can often be a daunting prospect, particularly for someone with little or no legal experience. The primary function of the solicitor then is to assist the client in navigating his or her way through the court process. It is also aimed where possible to achieve the best outcome for the client. This will obviously depend upon the available evidence, the instructions provided and the conduct of the other side. What the solicitor brings to the table in any such matter is a level of experience, knowledge, judgment and in some cases advocacy skills.
Whether you are involved in the dispute or facing the courts for any reason engaging a solicitor should assist you in understanding the process, minimising the stress and worry involved as well as maximising your prospects of the right outcome. It is always important to make an informed decision on whether to instruct a solicitor. This entails both checking that the person you propose to instruct has experience of or is hopefully a specialist in the field in question, is prepared to deal with matters thoroughly as well as keeping you fully informed. Where public funding is not available it is also important to know that the solicitor you instruct will provide his services at a reasonable rate of charge.
In many cases you will engage both a solicitor and a barrister to act for you but this is often not necessary. Just as solicitors have rights to appear before judges in the majority of the courts previously reserved for barristers, barristers also now provide direct access services without the need to instruct a solicitor. Sometimes a mix of the two will be beneficial provided whoever you instruct is clear about how the required work is divided up between the two. The client should always be wary of a solicitor appearing to claim to be a specialist in many different fields. In practice this is not possible. You should feel free to question a solicitor about his past experience before making a decision whether or not to proceed.