Frequently asked questions
Q:How will I know that I will deal with the subject matter expert and not get assigned to a junior lawyer?
As part of the membership criteria the members cannot employ any other staff, they have to have the right qualifications in the particular field and at least 10 years practice experience, so you can be sure that there will only one person who will deal with your case: the expert.
Q: What are the costs/prices for the services?
Each lawyer has their own pricing depending on what is required. Please see their websites or give them a call.
Q: Are AIBL members more expensive as they are senior, experienced specialists?
All members operate independently and their fees are commensurate with their senior level expertise (although most of them charge less for their time than they have done in the past). However, most importantly their fees are usually better than what ‘regular’ law firms charge because they don’t employ expensive junior lawyers who then take longer and cost more to do the work (which then the senior lawyer also needs to check). One of our members often quotes the example of 2 very similar jobs he did for one of his main clients: the one at his previous firm, where he involved an assistant, cost c£7k, the one he did on his own cost c£3k. The difference in hourly rates was about 10%. This is a typical experience for most AIBL members.
Q: How can I be sure that I get the right lawyer and advice?
We would say that AIBL is one of the best places to start looking for the expert in the field that your requirement lies, plus you will be assured to get good quality, sound advice that will be the best value for money.
Q: Can AIBL guarantee me the best lawyer?
No, we can’t, but AIBL members are amongst the top of their profession in their particular field and have been vetted for the quality of their service so you are sure to get a very good one!
Q: What is the process of engagement?
The AIBL website will function as the place to find the right lawyer for you. You will find a description of their specialty and expertise on the website, plus their contact details and their own website. You will have to contact the particular lawyer and engage directly with him/her. There is no engagement with AIBL.
Q: What happens if I need advice in more than one specialist area?
There are no ‘general’ business lawyers in AIBL. Each is highly specialised in one or two specific areas of business law. Also, there are no rules with regards to referrals or subcontracting. We recommend you start by finding an AIBL lawyer whose areas of specialism seem to most suit your particular needs. This AIBL lawyer may refer you back to the AIBL site to find other experts if and when needed, or recommend someone else (AIBL member or not) whom they trust. However, you should always go with someone you feel comfortable with, AIBL member or not!
Q: Why was the AIBL established? What are the advantages of AIBL?
AIBL was established to promote the services of independent specialist business lawyers and to better enable the general business public to find and get direct access to specialist business legal advice and to a more accessible, value-for-money service than a full-service law firm can provide. Through the membership criteria it also aims to establish and maintain high standards of advice quality, whilst keeping prices competitive.
The advantages for both members and clients are clear:
Members: Being independent is a double-edged sword. It means you can shape your company the way you want it, but you do not have the safety net or punching power of a large firm. Membership of AIBL can give you that group strength without affecting your independence. Not only can AIBL help you have a stronger presence in the business- legal community, but it will also give you a group of like minded people to ‘associate’ with (in the wider sense of the word). Of course it will also be a source of referrals, it will enable you to offer a more ‘holistic’ service to those clients that need/want that, add to your professional credibility, and finally group marketing could be more (cost) effective than on an individual basis.
The main difference between AIBL and other lawyer ‘collectives’ is that the Association is there for you, you are not there for the benefit of the Association or to in some way underpin its capabilities. AIBL members are all successful in their field in their own right and do not need to depend on other (AIBL) lawyers. Therefore, AIBL membership represents the highest level of quality and experience.
Clients: The main advantage for clients is the ability to find the subject matter expert for the particular issue that they need help with. The independent status guarantees direct access to him/her rather than having to deal with a junior lawyer, and that in turn assures a high standard of advice quality, but at a reasonable price.
Q: Who are the membership selection committee and what makes them qualified to allocate membership or not?
A panel chaired by AIBL’s management applies rigorous vetting procedures to check new and existing members for compliance with the required membership criteria and AIBL’s own highly challenging quality control criteria. This is particularly important to maintain the high levels of advice quality and personal service that the Association aims to deliver.
Q: What is the difference between a practising solicitor and a non-practising solicitor?
One is regulated and needs his own professional indemnity insurance cover. The other has qualified and practised as a solicitor in the past but chooses not to be regulated, usually because of the administrative burden and expensive insurance premiums which solicitors are forced to pay. If he is not regulated he cannot legally call himself a practising solicitor. For some areas of law (eg most litigation, conveyancing) lawyers need to be regulated. But for most (eg commercial advice and drafting) there is no legal requirement.
Q: What is a ‘virtual firm’?
• A revolution is taking place in the legal world. More and more new law firms are setting up as virtual firms. There is no simple definition, but as a general rule most of the lawyers who ‘work’ for a virtual firm are neither partners nor payroll employees of the firm, but instead operate on a sort of ‘sub-contract’ basis. So a client will contract with the virtual firm, which will provide the services of one or more lawyers whom it engages under a sub-contract. The virtual firm will receive the fees, and will then pay some of those fees to the lawyer. A lawyer may agree to work under the auspices of a virtual firm for a number of reasons, one main one usually being that the virtual firm has a block insurance policy so the lawyer does not have to go to the effort of obtaining his or her own insurance cover.
• Similarly, an AIBL lawyer may on occasion choose to operate as a sub-contractor for any traditional ‘bricks-and-mortar’ law firm, or even another AIBL lawyer.
• As an alternative to operating on a sub-contracting basis, it is also open to any AIBL lawyer to agree to pay or be paid introduction or referral fees, subject to any rules imposed by their regulators. (Like any other business, they may choose to use websites such as that brilliantly conceived website www.wottledo.com to create, communicate and manage tailored referral reward ‘deals’.)
• Any regulated AIBL lawyer can effectively operate as their own ‘virtual law firm’.