Our first stop is at www.desktoplawyer.net, whence you can download documents to help you deal with a number of legal situations. These range in price from £3-£60. The site can also provide you with the software needed to customise these letters for your own purposes. Further help, if required, is available from their legal support centre at £17.50 for 10 minutes. An annual subscription is also possible, whereby for £99 documents and telephone advice are available free, so if you're anticipating a difficult year, that might be the way to go.
Getting a little more specific, www.divorce-online.co.uk can help you to jettison that problem partner. Their standard divorce pack costs £55 and takes 10 minutes to complete. With 40% of British marriages coming unstuck, it may be an address to note, even if you hope never to need it.
On the subject of divorce www.sharingpensions.co.uk is a free information website focused on the division of pension rights resulting from UK divorce. The website is an independent financial advisers (IFA) view, providing solutions to family lawyers, their clients, individuals involved in marriage breakdown and divorce, pension scheme managers and those with an interest in retirement planning.
Our next stop moves us from domestic bliss to the joys of honest toil. Are you cross with your boss? Need relief from your chief? Want to talk to a lawyer about your employer? www.compactlaw.co.uk has detailed information on employment rights. Help is available on such topics as maternity leave, rules for part-time workers and questions of leave and sickness. Housing, immigration and business laws are also covered. The site has a premium-rate helpline (£1.50/minute) but also offers some free documents and a search facility for free legal advice. If you run a business and need help establishing HR and Health and Safety departments, Peninsula provides specialist employment law and health and safety services.
Once we have you happily married and gainfully employed, the next step must be somewhere nice to live. www.landlord-law.co.uk offers advice on all aspects of tenancy rights. The site is run by Tessa Shepperson, who will answer questions, provide a customised tenancy agreement (£115) or issue possession orders on your behalf. If even she cannot resolve your issues and the time comes to move on, there's always www.legalmove.com, the site of conveyancing firm HammondsDirect, who will conduct a sale or rental online.
Freelawyer (www.freelawyer.co.uk) is a website set up by a group of solicitors and barristers to make English and Welsh law more transparent and more accessible to ordinary people. It is possible to research around 5,000 different legal questions, organised into six categories: family, motoring, personal injury, housing, employment and consumer law. Freelawyer then supplies legal information. Users who want to find a lawyer can put in a bid for quotes from interested lawyers - a very valuable service, as estimates can vary from £250 - £3,500 for the same legal help. If this site is down, and you are Oxford-based, you could consider www.turpinmiller.co.uk - a Cowley law firm offering free personal advice under the Legal Help scheme. Their practice areas include family law, immigration, debt management, benefits and an expanding department dealing with employment law.
Another useful site along similar lines can be found at www.infolaw.co.uk, where Nick Holmes has gathered a great wealth of useful searchable information. The emphasis is perhaps more on information for lawyers rather than about them, but with over 30,000 documents viewable, there is likely to be something for the layman in there. You might also like to have a look at www.lawdictionaries.com - a convenient index of free online law dictionaries and other useful tools.
To see if you can afford all these services, it might be useful to estimate your credit rating. www.checkmyfile.com can help you so to do. Their "free stuff" is relatively unhelpful, but for a fee you can establish how you are likely to be thought of by large financial institutions. A similar service (among others) is provided by www.experian.co.uk, who will supply your credit reference file for a statutory fee of £2.
This list of sites makes no claims to be exhaustive. Another good general site for legal assistance is www.lawontheweb.co.uk, which offers general advice on a broad range of topics. In addition, a company called Waterlow have a massive database of links to legal firms and services. Click here for their legal directories page, or here for their general index, which includes surveyors and accountants and many other categories of professional service.
Our brief search also turned up some warnings about ambulance-chasing cunningly disguised as free advice, so be sure to compare a few options before signing up to anything. As always, we welcome your comments and your suggestions for anything else which should be included here, and express the hope that you have need of as few as possible of the above services.