Do I have to use the panel solicitor my insurance company recommends?
You may have legal expenses insurance, to cover, or contribute towards, your legal fees where you have an employment claim. This policy is commonly attached to your house contents insurance but could also be available elsewhere, such as with bank accounts benefits if you have a particular bank account.
Legal expenses policies often give the insurer (you) the freedom to choose which solicitors to appoint for advice and assistance when you have an employment claim - unless there is a conflict of interest. Some insurance companies however may suggest that you have to or should appoint a solicitor on their panel to act for you dependant on the stage your claim is at. In the cases we see, the terms of a legal expenses policy do not generally guarantee any particular firm of solicitors, specific location or minimum size of firm and all they say is a panel firm of solicitors will be appointed prior to legal proceedings being essential following which, to comply with statutory regulations, you can choose your own solicitor. However, the Insurance Companies (Legal Expenses Insurance) Regulations 1990 gives you the right to choose your solicitor to cover the work involved in liaising with ACAS or preparing the ET1 and any other work needed to start the proceedings. Quite often an insurer will also allow you to choose your solicitor at an earlier stage if you have found one that you wish to instruct so it is always worth asking.
Whoever acts for you, you should be fully confident that they are going to represent your best interests. If you prefer to choose your own solicitor for whatever reason, then you should not allow your insurance company to tell you that you must accept their choice where you do have a right to choose. This is why it is important that policyholders should notify their insurer about a potential claim as soon as reasonably possible. The courts have clarified that solicitors should advise their clients to check whether they have "before the event" legal expenses insurance and we will always ask you this question and do our best to obtain agreement from your insurer for us to be appointed under the terms of your legal expenses policy if that is your wish.