1. Are you a solicitor?
  2. Are you a specialist employment lawyer?
  3. Do you take unfair dismissal cases on a no win no fee basis?
  4. Do you charge for risk assessments?
  5. What percentage fee do you charge on no win no fee unfair dismissal cases?
  6. What experience do you have with unfair dismissal cases?
  7. What percentage of unfair dismissal cases are you successful in?
  8. Do you conduct your own advocacy in the Employment Tribunal?
  9. Do you envisage any disbursements having to be paid?
  10. What is your hourly rate?

1.  Are you a solicitor?

This may seem like an obvious question to start out with but it’s an important one. You’ll want a qualified, experienced solicitor dealing with your unfair dismissal case or you’re lining yourself up for a world of trouble. Some businesses that you’ll contact regarding your case won’t even be firms of solicitors but may be claims management companies. Beware of this. Make sure that the person that you’re instructing works for a qualified firm of solicitors and that they are a qualified solicitor. Ask for the firm’s Solicitors Regulation Authority number (“SRA” number) and for the solicitor’s personal SRA number. Get assurances that this person will be dealing with your case the whole way through – firms of solicitors often tell you that a solicitor will be dealing with it but then the case will be farmed out to the nearest convenient paralegal. This is particularly the case if the firm of solicitors is taking your unfair dismissal case on a no win no fee basis.

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2. Are you a specialist employment lawyer?

This is a very important question. You’ll want your representative to be a qualified solicitor but you will also want them to be a specialist employment lawyer. There are many fields of law that solicitors work in and employment law is but one of them. Choosing a specialist employment lawyer (especially one that deals a great deal with unfair dismissal cases) will give you the best chance of winning your unfair dismissal case.

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3. Do you take unfair dismissal cases on a no win no fee basis?

If you’re reading this article then you’re clearly interested in instructing a solicitor for your unfair dismissal (or constructive dismissal case) on a no win no fee basis. Although it’s becoming increasingly common for solicitors to take unfair dismissal cases on a no win no fee basis (also known as “contingency fee” agreements) some firms of solicitors still insist on hourly payment. One of the first things to do, then, is to ensure that the solicitor that you’re talking to deals with cases on a no win no fee basis. If they don’t take cases on a no win no fee basis then keep ringing around.

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4. Do you charge for risk assessments?

A risk assessment should be carried out before the solicitor decides whether to take your unfair dismissal case on, whether that’s on a no win no fee basis, on an hourly rate, or through some other method of funding. Some solicitors charge for the risk assessment. This is normal and fairly understandable – a thorough risk assessment involves a relatively significant investment of time, including fact-finding and the application of the facts to the law by the solicitor involved. Experienced employment lawyers will have developed a “nose” for cases – they’ll know generally from the bare facts that you give them whether your chance has a reasonable chance of success or not. However, most reasonably competent solicitors will (be required to) carry out a risk assessment prior to their entering into a no win no fee agreement. Unfair dismissal cases often involve a large amount of effort and there’s no guarantee that the solicitor will get paid at the end of it – results are success-based (that’s essentially the point of a no win no fee agreement in an unfair dismissal case). Unfair dismissal cases are sometimes subject to unforeseeable interventions during the case (new facts arising, a witness refusing to give evidence etc.) but the solicitor taking your case on will want to assure both themselves and their employer that the risk of a no win no fee unfair dismissal case is worth bearing.

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5. What percentage fee do you charge in no win no fee unfair dismissal cases?

The percentage fee that solicitors can charge in no win no fee unfair dismissal cases is capped at 35%. The risk assessment that solicitors (should) carry out in no win no fee dismissal cases (see above) will determine what they believe the risk in the case is and will determine the fee to be set. It’s worth contacting at least two or three firms of solicitors to see what percentage fee they charge for no win no fee unfair dismissal cases. The normal range is between 25% and 35%, depending upon the strength of your case.

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6. What experience do you have with unfair dismissal cases?

You’ll want to interrogate the solicitor who’s provisionally handling your no win no fee unfair dismissal case on their experience with unfair dismissal cases. Ask them how many unfair dismissal cases they have dealt with over the last twelve months and how many times they’ve been to the Employment Tribunal to deal with their unfair dismissal cases. This will give you a litmus test as to their personal experience with unfair dismissal cases.

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7. What percentage of unfair dismissal cases are you successful in?

The answer to this question should be over 50%. Solicitors will generally only take unfair dismissal cases on (or employment law cases generally) if they calculate the case has more than a 50% probability of success in the Employment Tribunal. If less than 50% of the cases that they’re taking on succeed then they’re either bad at judging the cases or bad at running them. Either way, you should find another solicitor to take your case on a no win no fee basis.

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8. Do you conduct your own advocacy in the Employment Tribunal?

This is an essential question. If the solicitor (or their firm) doesn’t carry out their own advocacy then you’ll be paying for a barrister (or another solicitor) to be representing you at the Employment Tribunal. This is an extra cost and an unnecessary one in a no win no fee unfair dismissal case – each cost that you incur will reduce the value of any compensation that you’ll receive.

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9. Do you envisage any disbursements having to be made?

A “disbursement” is an expense incurred during the case. Examples of disbursements include the cost of obtaining your medical notes or of instructing a barrister (among other things). This is one of the less important questions in a no win no fee unfair dismissal case as there are normally no disbursements incurred unlike, for example, disability discrimination cases. However, ask anyway.

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10. What is your hourly rate?

This is not an absolutely essential question but it’s one that you should seek to get an answer to. Although the majority of no win no fee unfair dismissal cases will involve no cost to you there are (very limited) circumstances in which you’ll have to pay your solicitor’s costs. This includes, for example, if you decide to terminate the no win no fee agreement halfway through the case. In this instance (if the termination is your fault) then you may be responsible for paying your solicitor’s costs.

Redmans Solicitors are London employment lawyers and offer employment law advice to employees and employers. They are specialist unfair dismissal no win no fee solicitors and offer Employment Tribunal no win no fee representation

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The Direct 2 Lawyers Employment Team post daily on interesting employment law cases, Employment Tribunal judgments and Employment Appeal Tribunal judgments. All of the Employment Team posts are written by qualified specialist employment lawyers

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