Here some suggested organisations that offer expert advice on SN.
SEND Lawyers(25 Posts)
I was wondering if anyone has used SEN Legal in Bury St Edmunds (Melinda Nettleton being their most senior solicitor) and has any thoughts?
Personally, I wouldn't use them. Sorry.
Are you able to say why? Don't want to pay a fortune for the wrong lawyer! I can't work out how to PM you on my silly phone, but more info would be much appreciated. Thanks.
One of the ones towards the top of this list is probably your best bet - http://www.chambersandpartners.com/UK/Editorial/72731
When I contacted their office, their Secretary 'gate-keeped' and refused to book me a phone-call with Melinda. Instead she insisted that I send all my paper work to their office with a cheque for a substantial amount, and Melinda would decide whether or not she coukd help me.
My case was complex and I needed a quick opinion on what paperwork was even relevant, and as was starting out, what paperwork I was to get. I insisted on speaking with Melinda before parting with money and got a message back saying that she has decided that she is unable to help.
I got the distinct impression that they prefer 'off the shelf' cases rather than individual or complex and not especially keen to work with parents, but instead just take over.
Lets face it though, the SEN law situation is so dire they can make enough money with off the shelf.
Hmmm. That's interesting to know Star. Thank you for filling me in.
I haven't used them as I felt that the fees looked extraordinary just for a conversation about the case! However I did know someone who used them and had a successful outcome. Having said that they paid a fortune! It's hard to say as I have never had any contact with other solicitors to compare fees. I do know that some people have had more success with advocacy services rather than solicitors. I have also had good legal help and advice from ipsea. I guess it depends whether you have money to spare and also whether you want someone to take over and do all the leg work for you.
I've used SEN Legal with success, they got us a Tribunal win in 2009 and it was not an off-the-shelf case. Melinda is representing us again at the moment in what is a complex school placement issue with ABA thrown in. It did take quite a while to get hold of her and I had to keep calling, mind you Levenes didn't even return my phone calls. I think a good lawyer in this field is absolutely stacked to the gills with cases. I would always use a solicitor rather than an advocate as nothing puts a fear into a local authority legal department like a pre-action letter from a well known education lawyer.
I'm one of the Solicitors at SEN Legal (and don't tend to read the SEN bits on Mumsnet as after a day at work, it's quite nice to read about about something other than children with complex needs and Local Authorities which are failing to support them effectively).
The law relating to children with special educational needs is a specialist area, it's not something very many lawyers deal with (indeed, I have had other lawyers as my clients). So, in looking for someone to deal with an SEN matter, whether you come in our direction or not, you really ought to be looking at the specialist firms in the field.
If you don't have good personal recommendations, then Chambers and Partners and the Legal 500 are good places to go next. Given the specialism of the field, when you're looking for an SEN lawyer, you're unlikely to have a firm that is geographically close to you. As a practice, we take work from all over England and Wales and we do most of our work by telephone and email. [Scotland and Northern Ireland have different statutory regimes]. If face to face meetings are important to you then ask your potential lawyers how they would arrange these.
There are also some very well respected charities and lay representatives who assist parents who are not in a position to instruct lawyers, but unfortunately the quality does vary (there have been a couple of cases recently where we have been brought into a case that was mismanaged by a lay representative). It's always much more expensive to sort out something that is in a mess than it is where a competent lawyer has been instructed from the beginning.
There's always a cost benefit analysis involved in working out when and where to spend money when dealing with a child with SEN - is it better to spend money now or wait till, say, secondary transfer or to not take legal action at all but put in place therapy provision privately and the cost of any legal work needs to be factored into the overall calculations you make.
The starting point in considering any case is always looking at the paperwork in full; it is not possible to provide sound professional advice when you've got a small excerpt of paperwork and you run the risk of saying something that is legally wrong, because you've seen another document that impacts upon the answer. It is not unknown for lets say, a parent to be unable to tell the difference between a proposed and a final statement and that sort of thing matters a lot in working out what advice to give.
Lawyers are also people too I do think it's reasonable to say that those of us who work in this field get a great deal of satisfaction out of helping parents and children into appropriate provision. It's very nice for us when we get to see the eventual results, some years after we've helped a family and they come back to us and tell us about the progress their child has made.
I would absolutely recommend Irwin Mitchell - Polly Sweeney.
I am a lawyer myself and I have been appalled at the practice standards in this area. Basic ethical and client care standards are not always complied with eg failure to provide info about costs or return client calls.
This is a fast moving world, where parents often need help quickly. If firms can't respond to that and don't respond to your calls/emails, they don't have proper systems in place so go elsewhere.
I say this as someone who spent 7 years in criminal practice when I was out of the office all day, most days. I managed to return people's calls within 48 hours and much sooner if urgent. That is what good admin staff are there for. To hell wit this,
To help with this - bloody ipad!
Inappropriately, you haven't been in practice lately, have you? These days with outsourcing and other IT advances, admin assistants tend to be a luxury, especially in firms at the legal aid end of the spectrum.
I know 2 people who used them and both had tribunal wins. However, one of the parent said she would not recommend them to anyone.
Cheeryble - I think that depends on the firm and its standards frankly.
Firstly, all colleagues I know still have litigation assistants of some sort. Irwin Mitchell seem to have plenty of them and always respond to emails.
Secondly, if by 'IT advances' you are talking about being able to pick up emails on the go, then that provides even less excuse not to respond to people's emails/calls.
So what is your point exactly? There is no excuse for not responding to clients and firms that 'pile 'em high', working on volume and use this as an excuse for breaching professional conduct obligations are just taking your money and offering you a crap service.
I may not have been in practice for a few years but the cost pressures have existed in crime for years - in a way most other legal aid lawyers are only recently beginning to experience. Fixed fees meant that lawyers took on work and did the minimum. We didn't. We took on cases, did the best possible job, argued for higher rate fees where we could, took every legal point we could, organised our services more effectively to ensure our clients didn't suffer - otherwise there is no point in being in practice.
'The starting point in considering any case is always looking at the paperwork in full; it is not possible to provide sound professional advice when you've got a small excerpt of paperwork and you run the risk of saying something that is legally wrong, because you've seen another document that impacts upon the answer. It is not unknown for lets say, a parent to be unable to tell the difference between a proposed and a final statement and that sort of thing matters a lot in working out what advice to give'
I find this attitude quite shocking tbh. Especially when 'poor stupid parents' is used as an excuse to demand a huge fee before they have even so much as spoken to one of the solicitors.
I think in general the best starting point for finding a lawyer is something like the directories produced by Chambers and Legal 500. They're neutral and they do do a lot of consultation each year, checking references etc. Failing that, you really need to find someone you know personally whose opinion you can trust.
The problem with taking opinions based on individuals' experience, especially from strangers, is that you just don't know enough about the circumstances and, if they complain of a bad experience, you inevitably only get one side of the story. Most lawyers will have plenty of stories about the clients for whom they can do nothing right: if they win the case, it was all down to the brilliant performance of the client in the witness box, if they lose it was down to the lawyer and no-one else. Lawyers and other professionals are always particularly wary of people with tales of woe about all the dreadful solicitors/accountants/doctors etc they've dealt with before (especially when it's more than one) because it so often becomes obvious that the problem lies more with the client than with their previous sol/dr etc. It turns out only too often that they're telling only half the story, the professional has had to give them advice they didn't like, or they have had totally unrealistic expectations, or they didn't like paying the fees they agreed, or they lost a weak case and are looking for someone to blame it on. That certainly doesn't mean that all lawyers are perfect - far from it - it just means that not all complainers are as wronged as they suggest, and their opinions might not be that reliable. I'm writing as someone with experience of taking professional negligence claims, so I know there are some bad apples out there but I've learnt to be very careful.
Disclaimer: comments about unhappy clients obviously don't refer to Starlight as she never became a client of the firm in question and anyway it rather looks as if the firm accepts what she says about the facts - nor indeed do they refer to anyone else on this thread ...
I wish I could expose another UK big shot solicitor who quoted me up to £20K to get me through the final hurdle. He used scare tactics but I saw through his bullshit as I already had dealt with a crook of a solicitor at the 'refusal to assess' stage.
I then went with an advocate whom I paid the grand total of £400+VAT to get me to the finishing line.
To be fair, I don't think all SEN solicitors work that way. The ones who offer legal aid, for instance, certainly aren't in that for the money.
Yes I used SEN we won after a no of years and stupidly a small fortune they behaved without compassion and we felt violated at the end of the process ,advocacy is definitely the way to go
How do we personally message people on here please? Would not want to be seen saying anything negative on here about a solicitor incase they take exception! Thanks
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