Hallmark Solicitors Info
Hallmark Solicitors in London, Leeds & Hull: Review
It's true that many general practice firms have experts within the group. Obviously the larger the firm, the more case types they can claim to specialise in. If a firm only has two solicitors yet states they 'specialise' in two dozen different case types - then we'd have to differ with them on what the word 'specialise' really means. This is not the case for Hallmark.
The most common specialist people immediately search for is road traffic offence solicitors. Why this area of law apparently requires a firm with such a single focus more-so than divorce, personal injury or will writing is debatable. We believe people's perception of motor offence law has been warped by news headlines boasting about celebrities and politicians exploiting apparent loopholes in the system to 'get off'. People want these sorts of US-lawyer-drama-tactics for themselves and assume only a hardened, life-long criminal law firm will know all the current loopholes available.
In truth, the best motor offence firms do not employ tricks but simply work within a legal framework they understand inside and out. They are up to date with the most recent developments and show respect to the courts. (Though not always the police it has to be said.) We would therefore suggest that having a specialist for any case type is just as important. Which brings us to the Commercial Law specialists - Hallmark Solicitors.
Although the general title of this arena is Commercial Law, there is a wide range of differing case types a business could be pursuing or defending at any one time such as Debt Recovery, Bankruptcy, Contractual Disputes, Intellectual Property Litigation, Tax/VAT Disputes, Commercial Property, Licensing, Franchise Law, Business Sales/Acquisitions and Employment Law.
Unlike private individuals who will go to see a solicitor rarely to sort out one issue at a time - e.g. selling a house or writing a will - businesses can often have two or three cases going on simultaneously year after year. This makes choosing the correct business law solicitor first time round even more important. So how do Hallmark stack up?
It's certainly a good start. With Legal Aid constantly being cut and 'no win, no fee' typically only applying to personal injury matters - firms that will offer you a free, real, sit-down conversation with a qualified solicitor are less common than you might expect. Some firms state a free consultation in their ads but then might give you a 15 mins phonecall with a trainee. Even then they'll simply be trying to convince you to buy a full hour's consultation with one of the firm's partners. We've been working with and writing about law firms for over 20 years and have seen some simply awful tactics. Law firms have profits to make and hire the wrong marketing personnel from time to time just like any other business.
If you do go ahead after your consultation, Hallmark state three payment structures are available. The old-fashioned hourly rate, the more modern fixed fees, and there's also an annual subscription (aka: a 'retainer'). Fixed fees are very popular these days and most law firms are moving towards this model across the whole gamut of case types as it gives the client peace of mind. If choosing between two firms, most people would pick the one offering a fixed price. So yes, a range of flexible payment options is another plus for Hallmark.
One question we get asked alot is 'how do you know which firm has experienced staff?'. Certainly plenty of law firms proudly boast histories such as 'Established in 1901'. On top of that some firms will say 'our solicitors have 80 years combined experience!'. Unfortunately this is all marketing spin. Obviously a 200-year-old firm won't have a 200-year-old solicitor running the place. For all you know, the solicitor they'll stick you with will be just 1-year out of Uni with the ink still wet on his diploma. 'Combined experience' on the other hand means they've added up all the staff's experience together - e.g. a firm with three solicitors all with 9 years experience may state their firm has a 'combined experience of nearly three decades!' which clearly sounds much better than just 9 years.
So how can you check the experience levels for a law firm? Luckily, The Law Society website lists the qualification dates and specialities of all registered solicitors and the firm's they currently belong to. If you look at the page for this firm's Hull office, you'll see that the two main solicitors qualified in 2001 and 2007. You can then click on their names to see what case types they specialise in.
So next time you see a firm that states 'Establish 150 years ago!' you'll be able to see if they're just a young firm that's borrowed some ancient branding, or genuinely a firm with real experience. Either way, how old the brand name of a firm is can often be quite meaningless.
We've always been surprised at how low-key the large majority of law firms keep their charity work when compared to other industries. The few firms who issue press releases about every elderly lady's fence they paint, always stick out like a sore thumb. Hallmark keep theirs understated and their local involvement comes in the form of helping with a drive to get employment rates up. A campaign kicked off by their local Viking FM radio station. Certainly Hallmark could end up with a fair bit of extra business out of all the people who come for a free audit. But 2 free hours of consultation per person is not to be sniffed at.
The firm also provide a range of YouTube videos on various business related matters, but each is only really an update about the topic and 2-3 minutes long. There are some written articles too but the firm's site could do with a decent internal search function as the help articles are mixed in with general industry news. So "Sole Representative Visas - A Guide" is followed by "Court appeal strips fraudulent director of all his secret profits".
The firm does have the regular social profiles on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Usually we're quite critical of firms that take considerable time with social media as it's typically a vanity exercise. For example, the general public really don't care what the firm's receptionist is wearing on Casual Friday or about the complete stranger's cases that have been won that day. In fact, it could be seen as very indiscreet to be posting about private cases on such a public forum. However when it comes to business law and the ridiculous amount of changes, speculation and uncertainty - we would actually recommend following a few specialist firm to make sure anything big your business should be preparing for doesn't slip by you.
• "Adel acted for one of my clients and was excellent."
• "Professional,friendly and very helpful and nice"
• "My Dad has been a client for 2 years and they have been a life saver for him"
We ran a poll a few years ago trying to find out the percentage of people trusted testimonials on firms' websites. Not just law firms but companies in general. The response wasn't even in the double digits. The snippets copy/pasted above are not from Hallmark's website though. We scoured the usual public forums such as Google Reviews, Yell, Yelp, TrustPilot, Facebook, etc. to try and get a general overview. It was really difficult as there seemed to be five law firms with 'Hallmark' in the name. Two Hallmark Solicitors, a Hallmark Family Law, a Hallmark Hulme, and a Hallmark Legal.
This isn't the first time we've had this problem and unfortunately not everyone takes the time to check before posting their review. We did spot a couple of negative reviews for this Hallmark to which the firm commented underneath about how that person had never been a client of theirs. If you do plan on checking out public reviews then try typing in the name of the local office (Hull, Leeds or London) as well when searching as none of the similarly named firms are in the same areas.
A quick note on navigation then. The official site for this firm is www.hallmarksolicitors.co.uk with both www.hallmarksolicitors.com and www.hallmarksolicitors.net being for different firms. All three offices of Hallmarks group are described and detailed on that one .co.uk website.
We should probably also point out that 0800 numbers are no longer charged at ridiculous amounts by mobile providers. Every network we checked now connects these calls for free. It can be confusing with all the 0845, 0871, 0843, 0808, 0300, etc. numbers out there. Hallmark Solicitors do sometimes list an 0845 6 808 251 number in places, but this will very likely cost you money from both a landline or a mobile. So we recommend ringing either the 0800 number for Leeds of London, or the regular 01482 616 616 landline number for Hull.
General Notes: Usually if Legal Aid is possible we've mentioned it above, but you can always ask. We haven't looked in depth at their recruitment program so are unaware of any job vacancies available. For a career with Hallmark Solicitors it's best to visit the website (www.hallmarksolicitors.co.uk), check opening hours, and find the correct phone/email contact details. Simply emailing a CV to reception looks lazy. Each law firm's Law Society and/or SRA number should be on their site, usually at the bottom of each page.
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