Find your way thought the myriad of timeshare advisers and helpers
The first thing everyone must to take on board is; you are not liable to pay any money before you instruct your lawyer
Furthermore, should you seek advice, most lawyers will give an initial half hour for free as it forms part and parcel of the service they offer. Quite simply, a lawyer will make money from you and should you become their client, so they will try and assist you, will be amenable to giving advice in the hope you engage them to act.
What you should never do, is commission anyone right away or hand over any money, as when the advice is received, you MUST consider what you were told and before you act. You must fully understand the advice given, as if you don’t, you are in the dark regarding your prospects.
The world of professional lawyering, cannot be compared to buying a products or hiring a tradesperson. The most important thing from your point of view is to tell the truth to your lawyer, so they have a correct foundation in which to advise. Over embellishing your story is never helpful and could lead to wrong advice being given. If the lawyer is pushy or wants to send someone to see you, that a ‘no-no’, it’s a salesman. Real lawyers - don’t make home visits.
If you are chatting to a real lawyer, who is experienced and effective, it may be the case that you need him more than he needs, you. Good lawyers like good clients and clients who are happy to instruct them. Good lawyers are well sought after, therefore, not desperate. If you are facing a ‘pushy’ lawyer, suggesting urgency - for one reason or another, your hackles should raise, as they don’t have enough clients and may appear desperate.
Is the lawyer regulated? If so, you have some assurance they have passed checks whereby, others believe they are legitimate?
That said, if they can ‘con’ you into a false belief, they might be capable of side-stepping the authorities, as in some cases it is a form filling exercise.
Financial Checks and Balances
Check Companies House as this will show you how much your lawyers are worth - this will provide you with information about how much they ‘have to lose’, should their service to you be shoddy or they are closed down. If the company has significant sums in reserve, they are backing what they do and with their own money. If the balance sheet shows little in reserve, they have nothing to lose.
In some cases, you may find the money you are paying is significantly more than the law firm is worth, which converts into cash flow difficulties. Let’s face it, an office, staffing costs, equipment, training, lawbooks, accountancy, banking facilities, websites, incorporation and membership costs will all add up to a lot of upfront costs. The money needed will be between £30,000 to £100,000 per office, so if they don’t have these sums on their balance sheet, one must be suspicious. In commercial terms, it called ingoing.
If they are the biggest and the best, they will have the money reserves in which to service the day to day costs. If the entire capital is built up from director’s loans, then they have every right to a share in the money should the company collapse. In short, we know a real company cannot be formed with little money. If they require you to put 'your money were your mouth is’ so should they. It’s called parity.
Who can represent you?
You need to know where the claim (if advanced) is being made - the court service, other forums of dispute resolution or abroad.
Court Based Claims
If it’s the court in England and Wales, you need a English regulated solicitor. Scottish and foreign solicitors can’t assist you in the English courts. In Scotland you need a Scottish regulated solicitor. English solicitors cannot operate abroad or in Scotland. Both sets of solicitors are officers of the court and are permitted to have conduct of your case in all tracks (small claims, fast track and multi track). On the subject of small claims (below £10,000), paralegals and lay representatives can assist you under the Lay Representatives (Right of Audience) Order 1999 which is accepted in the practice directions 27 (3.2) (2)
If your claim is in say; Spain, you need a Spanish registered lawyer, licensed by the judiciary in Spain.
Should you want a UK lawyer to assist you in the UK and to deliver the case in Spain, all can assist you. There will be a fee for the work they do and it is useful to have one on board, as they will be more acquainted with the procedure and the requirements abroad.
Cold-called unsolicited approaches and leafletted
If you are cold-called, you are not taking to a real lawyer. If they are acting on behalf of a lawyers, this is classed as unacceptable behavior and it’s unlikely a real lawyer will be involved and if leafletted, they may be desperate.
In most facets of the legal profession it's normal for lawyers to take money upfront however, the money asked for is on account of costs ‘yet to be incurred’. The normal procedure is when money is taken, it’s placed into a separate account called a ‘client account’ and when bills have been raised, the bill raised is settled by taking the money from this account.
In the past, there were generally two fee structures ‘fixed fee’ or ‘time based’. Now you have those two plus ‘Damaged Based Agreements [DBA], Conditional Fee Agreements, [CFA] funding agreements, rewards-based agreement and fee uplifts. All are dependent on the negotiations between the client and their lawyer and before an agreement is forged. The simple fact is, if an offer is made by your lawyer - go in with a counter offer - IT’S A NEGOTIATION.
Consulting the internet
This is most dangerous, as you don’t get to meet the lawyer you are conversing with. When visiting websites and looking for advice regarding companies, you need to know that a lot of fakery is around - some saying someone is good whilst other attacks them claiming they are a fraud.
In matters of assisting timeshare owners in difficult contracts, you are best consulting and being assisted by those who are recommended by others. The simple fact is, they do not charge for the advice given, they have no interest in the commission being charged, however in most cases have been vetted in order for them to recommend them to others.
In saying this, many consumers consult websites and discuss claims with marketeers who claim to have a panel of lawyers they refer work to. If this is the case, then you will be paying a fee which is buried in the costs they intend to charge you, so only pay part of the fee to others. In some cases that fee is all spent on their own marketing expenses so no one is working on the case for you. Most good lawyers will not work with the marketing companies, as they make and fail to declare the secret profit.
Are you comfortable?
You should know if you are being sold to, or if you are being advised. If you have any misgiving, feel bullied, harassed or made to feel like 'its urgent', then you should walk away. If you feel that the advice is given to 'sweet talk' or pander to your good nature, it’s not real advice. Have you been told about the risks you face if you embark on the action you want? If not, they are not lawyers. One must consider where there is an action, there will be a corresponding reaction and if you are aware of this, you will have been advised correctly.
All timeshare is not rotten, bad or mis sold - the objective of the advisor is to ask questions to determine the nature of the clubs you are members of, the resort’s developer who sold it and the matrix of the contract you entered into. It is only with this process that the lawyer can give you advice, however that advice will be entirely dependent upon what you tell them. When you have verbal advice, you then need to send all your disclosable documents to the lawyer so they can provide written advice. When this advice is delivered, you can reasonably, contemplate the issues, consider what you want to do and instruct them - if nessasary.