Monday, July 02, 2007

Law Society boss requires ideas for making more money while ethics & honesty fly out the window

Douglas Mill, the Chief Executive of the Law Society of Scotland for the last decade, and showing it, has come forth with a new pitch to prop up the flagging Scottish legal profession's business fortunes.

Not content with managing the property market into oblivion so that no one can afford a house these days, or fiddling complaints against corrupt crooked lawyers for more than 10 years, Douglas Mill , concerned at the implications of full implementation of the Clementi reforms, giving the public wider access to legal representation other than having to go through the usual solicitor or advocate, invariably getting ripped off with large overcharged fees for poor service, is asking the membership for ideas, to make more money when the chickens come home to roost, as it were ...

Scotland of course, had the right to implement a version of Clementi a long time ago .. as long as 1990, when the Law Reform (Misc Provisions) Act 1990 came into being, containing sections 25-29 which were designed to open up the legal services market so the public could gain wider access to justice.

What happened to those lofty goals of 1990 then ?

Well this: Former Lord Advocate Andrew Hardie revealed as major obstacle in removing lawyer-advocate monopoly on legal representation

and this: Scottish Executive thought to be blameworthy for allowing restrictive practices in legal services

and this: Scottish Executive fails to block FOI disclosure on records of restricted access to Courts

As you can see, it was the legal profession itself, along with it seems, a few members of the judiciary, which put the boot in, on those reforms in the 1990 Law Reform Act ... and not forgetting of course, the part of willing Government to play along with lobbying from the legal profession to protect their business markets from anyone else, was well played by the then Scottish Office under John Major, and several Scottish Executives since 1997.

Will the new Scottish Executive, led by the SNP still play along with this fit up of the justice system, which sees the public restricted in their access to justice & legal services ?

Well, perhaps not .. as this article shows the SNP looking at reforms : SNP Executive decides new look into limited legal services reforms as legal profession and judiciary lobby against change

However it looked like business as usual from the first words of our Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill on the matter, which you can see here: It's time for Injustice to end, but will the SNP end Injustice in Scotland ?

So, a turn around then ? Could it be the public will actually get the right to choose their legal representatives other than have to ply their way through the 10,000 solicitors of the Law Society of Scotland, hoping to get an honest one .. when the odds are well against it ?

Perhaps ... but of course, the Law Society of Scotland would rather not have Clementi implemented in Scotland at all .. as it's always lobbied to keep the markets of legal services closed to any competition so as not to disturb the profession's business model, and perhaps more importantly, not to disturb or dispute the legal profession's control of who has access to justice, and who does not.

The ideas from Turcan Connell, for instance to join forces with accountants (another self regulatory mob who specialise in letting crooked accountants such as Norman Howitt off the hook, might have to be viewed against the background of their own conduct towards clients - which is enough to give anyone cause for concern, as I covered here : Law Society of Scotland rejects complaint over estate ruined by huge legal fees

Access to justice ... I have seen how Douglas Mill feels about that one himself, when he interdicted my legal aid application to prevent a crucial case going ahead against the Law Society, calling it's own staff as witnesses in a case to establish why complaints procedures had been heavily breached, bent, and circumvented to get Scotland's most famous crooked lawyer : Andrew Penman of Stormonth Darling Solicitors, Kelso, off the hook.

Here is the Scotsman report on that incident from 5 June 1998, together with Douglas Mill's letter to the Scottish Legal Aid Board, leaked to me in disgust apparently ...

Scotsman 5 June 1998 Law Society accused of closing ranks as claimi failsDouglas Mill letter to Scottish Legal Aid Board demanding my legal aid be refused

Douglas Mill & his colleagues feel a bit more strongly on access to justice & criticism of the legal profession, as you can see from the following article from Scotland on Sunday, where the bosses of the Law Society of Scotland held special briefings against those such as myself, who speak out against corrupt practices in the legal profession & poor regulation of complaints, trying to fit up campaigners on justice reforms, on the horrendous attack on the Law Society Chief Accountant, which the Police seem to believe has been possibly caused by other members of the very same Scottish legal profession ...

Cash laundering link to law chief stabbing

Cash Link to Law Chief Stabbing Scotland on Sunday 29 January 2006

Quoting the Scotland on Sunday article directly :

"Meanwhile, campaigners for greater openness in the legal profession have hit back at suggestions that their organisations and websites could have been linked to the attack.

Senior figures in the Law Society have made it known they feel some of the websites criticising lawyers are tantamount to incitement to violence.

But Peter Cherbi, a long-time critic of the Law Society who runs a weblog "A Diary of Injustice in Scotland", said: "I'm concerned that some people will try and use this to stifle criticism and open debate. I can't imagine anyone connected to the campaigns would be involved in anything like this. Lawyers are supposed to uphold the right to free speech and not be acting against it."

Dirty tricks from the Law Society of Scotland .. taking journalists aside, trying to pick off campaigners with taunts of .. "get them", "implicate them in the story" ... while it seems the incident was caused by fellow colleagues ...

Douglas Mill doesn't particularly like debate on the legal profession at all, and particularly detests talk of reform .. to the point where he famously threatened the Scottish Parliament & Executive last year over the passage of the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007 ... on the thinking that it was against a lawyers Human Rights not to be able to consider and fiddle complaints against colleagues !

I covered Douglas Mill's Court Challenge threat against the Parliament here :

Law Society of Scotland threatens Court challenge against Scottish Executive over LPLA legal reform Bill

You can also read about a skirmish between Douglas Mill & John Swinney MSP at the Justice 2 Committee hearings here : The Corrupt Link Revealed - How the Law Society of Scotland manages client complaints & settlements.

The Herald 5 June 2006 - Would granny swear by the law society

and the earlier interview with Douglas Mill, where he put forward the bizarre notion of suicide over the lack of respect lawyers now have in Scotland due to his own stewardship of the legal profession is here : Scotsman responds to Peter Cherbi and the Herald with a living eulogy of Douglas Mill .. which came after the Law Society threatening the Herald newspaper over it's original story of Mill's comments to John Swinney in front of the Justice 2 Committee ...

Douglas Mill - A Lawyer's never loved in his own home land - The Scotsman 15 August 2006

It all comes down to money of course .. which is why the likes of Douglas Mill are worried that allowing wider access to justice & legal services will severely dent the profitability of member legal firms.

Quoting Douglas Mill in the Scotsman today, he says ; "Tinkering about with a £1.2 billion turnover of the legal services market in Scotland is not very sensible if you don't know what you are doing."

Yes, you are quite right, Douglas - tinkering of the legal services market is not very sensible if you don't know what you are doing - and you certainly don't. Best leave it to people who might perhaps lead the legal profession into better times and wider respect for honest, transparency and accountability - things which have lacked under your administration as Chief Executive, along with a few other willing participants at the Law Society who have done the client and ultimately the profession no favours at all.

£1.2 billion ..Douglas .. how much of that has come from some of your members ripping off clients wholesale, taking their properties, ruining their lives, ruining their livelihoods, businesses, health, and then seeing that any resulting complaint is buried so the poor client gets nothing, while you allow your crooked colleagues to go on practicing, with a license to ruin, plunder, loot, main, threaten & deny justice to just about anyone they please ?

Well, my message to the membership of the Law Society is this - you only have yourselves to blame. Not one of you has had the courage to stand up and say to the leadership of the profession - "The way we treat clients & handle regulatory matters is wrong. Resolve the injustice caused by our lack of respect for client complaints or change the leadership & bring in a new client friendly policy".

Use your vote as the membership, if you have a vote, if you have any democracy in the legal profession at all - and clean up the mess of poor standards, lack of public respect & trust, and incompetent leadership which has been the 'run of the mill' for most of the 1990s up to now.

My message to the Justice Secretary :

Only a few months ago, we had the Law Society and it's members arguing there were vast 'legal advice deserts' in Scotland due to lack of legal aid .. fine - open up the legal services markets to wider choice, and make sure there is effective independent regulation of legal services via the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission .. rather than allowing the Law Society to carve out another role for itself in the future, where it's past sins & injustice against the public, are still awaiting an answer from the Scottish Executive.

To use the election motto of the SNP once more - It's time - time to end injustice in Scotland and time to end the habit of using legality and the law as a lethal weapon to hound & destroy individuals who dispute the course of justice or those who are caught up in injustice at the hands of the legal system.

Serve the public, Mr Justice Secretary & serve Scotland, not the professions, judiciary, or special interests of those who have thrived & profited on the injustice against ordinary people for so long.

Article from the Scotsman follows :

Law Society wants lawyers to tell it about ideas for alternative models

THE chief executive of the Law Society of Scotland has called for leading firms to spell out how they see alternative business structures helping them to compete with their English rivals.

Douglas Mill, its chief executive, urged those firms pressing for "a level playing field" in the post-Clementi era to explain what changes they believe are necessary in the Scottish legal services market.

He told The Scotsman that, while many big firms said they believed change was needed, few were able to tell him exactly what they believed the society should be doing in practical terms to support them.

"The main difficulty we have is that we say to the big firms, yes, of course we will do what we can to ensure you get a level playing field, but what is it that you want?," he says. "But at the moment the big firms are not any more focused than saying we just don't want to be at a competitive disadvantage. So we need to find out what that is."

Mill's comments came in the wake of criticism of the bodies regulating the Scottish legal services market by a senior partner with one of Scotland's big four firms. Alan Campbell, Dundas & Wilson's managing partner of projects, told The Lawyer magazine that the failure to adopt Clementi-style reforms in Scotland could be perceived as "anti-competitive".

But Mill insisted the only reservation the society has towards embracing alternative business structures is in ensuring they could be properly regulated in the public interest. "Our position always has been, 'what's the public interest?'," he says. "The public interest is in being able to properly regulate any new business model.

"We've never had a philosophical difficulty with, for instance, multidisciplinary partnerships except they need to be regulated properly and nobody has shown us the regulatory model."

Renewed debate about the impact of the Clementi reforms on the Scottish marketplace has come as the OFT considers a "super-complaint" from Which? that called for deregulation, arguing the traditional structure of the Scots law firm "hinders innovation, restricts consumer choice and may lead to higher prices".

Yet opinion within the profession about adopting similar reforms to those in England is sharply divided. John MacKinnon, the Law Society of Scotland's president, has already voiced concern about the potential impact of deregulation could have on high street firms if larger competitors cherry-picked the most lucrative work.

One potential solution to protect the interests of smaller firms was recently put forward by Edinburgh-based Turcan Connell. The firm called for non-lawyer advisers to be allowed to become partners in law firms, and joint senior partner Douglas Connell suggested small firms might benefit from economies of scale in joining forces with other professionals, such as accountants.

The issue of alternative business structures was debated at a special event hosted by society at the College of Law in London last week. The event was organised to recognise the fact that a growing number of the society's members practise south of the Border, with English firms, Scots-firms based in England or as inhouse lawyers .

"England and Wales is now our third biggest constituency with 604 members, which is a pretty chunky number for us," explains Mill.

Mill reveals the society plans to hold a major conference on 28 September to debate the issues surrounding alternative business structures. "We are going to be running a big conference, which is still very much at the drawing board, but will be on this very topic."

By then the OFT should have come to a conclusion on what, if any, action to take following the Which? super-complaint.

If reforms are deemed necessary, then Mill says they must be evidence-based to avoid destabilising the market.

"Tinkering about with a £1.2 billion turnover of the legal services market in Scotland is not very sensible if you don't know what you are doing."


Anonymous said...

Good post as usual Peter.I didn't realise they tried to set up up on the Leslie Cumming story.Something should be done about that.Heads must roll !

Poirot said...


I think the most telling part is that no one will rise to the defence of Douglas Mill after what you said in the Scotsman.

Doesn't sound like he would win a popularity contest now, does it ?

Andy / Edinburgh said...

Reading the Scotland on Sunday link confirms to me you are in the right and the Law Society is definitely in the wrong.

Shouldn't the Police investigate the Law Society for spreading false information on what happened to their Chief Accountant ? Maybe they were trying to divert attention from someone they knew who did it ?

Keep up the good work Mr Cherbi. Your writing is excellent on legal issues and I can see now why the Law Society fears you so much.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe what you said in the Scotsman about Douglas Mill went unchallenged by one of those who claim they are lawyers !

Does everyone hate this guy or what ? Maybe they should vote you in as the new Chief Executive !

long live the Herald said...

LOL Peter that was a wee bit cheeky of you on Turcan Connel and their tree planting spin.

[TURCAN Connell is to help the RSPB plant 2,000 broad-leaf tree seedlings at its Inversnaid nature reserve, near Loch Lomond. Planting is scheduled for November, when a team of 20 Turcan Connell employees will plant the trees in clumps of 50 or 100 over a weekend.]

Is that one tree for every tenant thrown out of a clients estate
(comment removed)

Good link on Turcan Connell & Dr Forrest's complaint.Glad to see some people don't hold back on crooked lawyers even if we have to :)

Anonymous said...

long live the herald what is the good link on Turcan Connell & Dr Forrest's complaint all about ?

Anonymous said...

so it was the case of a comment too far for the hootsmoan was it ?

whatsinaname said...

I think long live the herald (what a title !) means this :

Legal bill wipes out net assets
IAIN MORSE and SIMON BAIN January 02 2007

A leading Edinburgh law firm which charged fees of more than £16,000 to administer an estate with net assets of under £14,000 has had a complaint against it to the Law Society of Scotland rejected.

The complaint was made by widow Dr Kate Forrest, a lecturer in Russian in Edinburgh, against Turcan Connell, the multi-disciplinary firm which prides itself on its "family office".

Forrest complained that the firm had told her only that it would charge £200 an hour, had entered into unnecessary work, and had failed to give her estimates, or issue itemised bills, despite repeated requests. She claims the firm then gave an undertaking to halt the charges, in a meeting with witnesses at the firm's office, but this did not materialise.

When the Law Society examined the complaint, it ruled that the meeting could not be taken into account as the firm had no record of it, and it accepted an explanation by managing partner Douglas Connell that the complaint had been based entirely on a "misunderstanding".

The £16,000 in charges had the effect of more than wiping out any assets in the estate, which had gross assets of £69,574 but debts of £55,731.

The Law Society reported that the firm had "apologised for the oversight" in billing, and that "simple oversight … should not be defined as inadequate professional service".

In November, Jane Irvine, the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman, issued a rare public rebuke to the Law Society over its handling of complaints, urging it to "recognise that the consumer age has dawned".

The Scottish Executive is poised to scrap self-regulation by the profession, policed by the ombudsman, and introduce a Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, which the society is fiercely resisting.

The number of complaints received by the Law Society of Scotland has shot up from 2402 during 2002 to 4849 last year. The 12-page annual report of the society's Client Relations Office records 1057 cases in which no action was taken at all last year, while in 108 cases a solicitor's conduct was found unsatisfactory.

The current procedure starts with a reference to the law firm against which the complaint is made, and internal procedures to be followed by firms are laid down by the society. Only after these are exhausted can complainants proceed to the Law Society itself. And then, perhaps surprisingly, complainants can be charged by the law firm for their work in submitting the relevant evidence to the society.

The evidence regarded as acceptable by the society may be limited only to the files presented by the law firm, though it can order the production of "missing"documents - such as the record of a meeting. If a complaint is rejected by the society, the complainants have recourse to the courts. But this means finding a law firm prepared to act against another firm - which as The Herald has reported can be difficult in Edinburgh - at a minimum cost of several thousand pounds, a considerable disincentive to taking legal action.

Kate Forrest says she is left with no choice but to go to court if she wishes to challenge an outstanding fee in excess of £8000. She says: "For me this would be expensive and risky. I am not rich and they know this very well."

The Law Society of Scotland said: "A complaint about a fee could be service or conduct as it could result from a breach of a rule if there was no letter of engagement, or IPS (inadequate professional service) if there was insufficient communication about a fee with a client.

"If a client feels a fee is too much then it can be referred to the Auditor of Court who can decide what a reasonable fee might be. Firms may also charge for providing a bill which itemises each letter, phone call, etc, especially if it is for a large volume of work.

"If someone takes a court action against a solicitor then the society is not involved in that process."

Turcan Connell said: "We care deeply about ensuring that we give every client the best possible service. Our trust and tax experts are among the most proficient in Scotland, and we always strive to protect our clients' interests and minimise their costs as far as possible.

"Dr Forrest is no longer a client. We resolutely protect the privacy of all current and former clients, and would not make any public comment on an individual's personal circumstances or relationship with us."

Penman part deux maybe ?

all these lawyers sure like to ruin dead peoples estates.I think I will spend all mine and give whats left in cash to the kids before I drop dead rather than let these bloody lawyers get their thieving hands on it.

Anonymous said...

That herald link is expired but anyway its obvious why Mill or Veitch chose Turcan Connell for the comment in the Scotsman story.

You scratch my back etc..

Recommend us a non crooked legal firm Mr Cherbi

natsu said...

Just came by to see how you are doing.Always good posts here and support.Nice to know people respect you for it and to stand up for human rights !

Have good days !

speculative said...

The twa Dougies at it again in the Scotsman.
The author could have made it look a little less orchestrated than it was !
Would the twa Dougies like to talk about client complaints ?
Shock ! Horror ! looks like not !

Poirot said...


You seem to have missed your friend Lord McCluskey's diatribe against the Scottish Parliament on the Land Reform Act yesterday.

Just coincidence perhaps, but Turcan Connell's clients are big players with the Land Reform Act.

Peter Cherbi said...

Thanks for your comments everyone


I saw that article by Lord McCluskey on Land Reform, thanks. I see he ended it again with a warning to the Parliament & Executive on meddling with the legal system & judiciary again with the following quote :

"The Lord Advocate should make a clear and authoritative statement to parliament that neither the law officers nor other ministers have any duty, or right, to offer advice or instructions to the judiciary as to the meaning and application of the law. "

It seems Lord McCluskey has a real fear that Judicial Reform will once again be on the cards, hence the flotilla of open letters & articles in the Scotsman on this very issue, but as you can see in the quote above, it looks like the Judiciary are unaccountable to anyone - and they certainly seem to like it that way.

To return to the topic of new ideas for the legal profession's business model :

This is about the Law Society finding new ways to protect it's members business markets.

Taking Douglas Connell's idea of non-lawyers working for legal firms is a complete nonsense as a panacea to Clementi.

The bottom line is if a client knows a firm has a bad reputation or is just plain crooked, then whether they are lawyers or non lawyers, they are saddled with it - and why should people deal with a legal firm who treats their clients like dirt or gives poor or negligent service - whether it's a lawyer or just a member of their staff ? because at the end of the day, when things go wrong, we know what will happen - nothing, and the client has to take yet another financial loss while the legal firm escapes justice.

Would anyone go to a firm such as Turcan Connell to use a lawyer or a non lawyer after reading that Herald article ? Obviously the Herald believed the client, that's why the story was published in the first place. How about giving a will to Andrew Penman or his legal firm of Stormonth Darling. I wouldn't advise it ...and I couldn't really say I'd approach Turcan Connell either for legal services after reading that Herald story, or reading some of the things I am currently receiving from journalists on that firm ...

It's time to call time on the legal profession's monopoly on access to legal services & the Courts. The public have to be more careful on who they use as their legal representatives and have a proper & full regulatory disclosure on solicitors & advocates before trusting them with legal work.

Anonymous said...

Form a legal firm yourself Peter.If your writing is anything to go by I would have you represent my legal affairs without a doubt and I can think of many more who would too.

Anonymous said...

As always Mr Cherbi gets to the heart of the debate.

"The bottom line is if a client knows a firm has a bad reputation or is just plain crooked ..."

No one in their right mind would use many a legal firm if they knew their "regulatory history" as you refer to it, Peter but try telling this to the legal profession and it's like talking to a brick wall.

It's about money and protecting business as you rightly point out and banter between solicitors in the newspapers dressed up as a news item seems to be the only way the Law Society can seek to engage the public on this issue.

Anonymous said...

Saw your comments in the Scotsman on this story.Now I see why Mill hates your guts.You caught him red handed on that one with your legal aid case !

meg said...

I like your response to some of the comments Mr Cherbi.It must be difficult for the legal profession to spin some tricks past you !

Anonymous said...

Happy 4th July Peter Cherbi.

Come to the USA and work in our legal system.

The clients would love your talk !.

Anonymous said...

Hands off our Cherbi ! We need him in Scotland .Didn't see him get a pin from the queen for his efforts passing law for victims of lawyers.Shame on us for not appreciating our own!

Anonymous said...

"ethics & hoensty fly out the window"

Peter, those values never existed to begin with in the legal profession, at least not while the Law Society has been training them up to fleece clients without fear of redress.

Anonymous said...

I know a firm which Turcan Connell have acted for in the past.They made huge mistakes in their work and cost that company a lot.

Don't think the idea of employing non lawyers in the same firm to sweet talk the client will do much good.

Peter Cherbi said...

#Anonymous @6.69pm

Forming a legal firm isn't in my plan but I suppose never say never .... Depends what happens after Clementi eventually comes to Scotland. This has been suggested to me a few times this week in correspondence ...

#anonymous @ 4.12pm

Why Douglas Mill hates me I do not know but his feelings towards me seem to be more widespread among at least, the 'leading lights' of the Scottish legal profession - who are as ever willing to go all out to protect their crooked colleagues. For people who profess to serve & represent the law, they are certainly well skilled in corruption & attempts to undermine people at any cost.

#Anonymous @9.23pm

Happy 4th July to you too. Scotland is my home, there's too much to do here.

#Anonymous @4.23pm

Honours seem more designed to keep people 'in check' than anything else .. rock the boat and we take it back so to speak... I'd rather have all the cases of injustice brought to me resolved and for those poor folks to have peace of mind & resolution to their predicaments than get a 'pin from the queen' thanks, so rest easy on that one.There will be no accolades for me, I've rocked too many boats.

#Anonymous @ 7.52pm

If you know of details involving Turcan Connell or any legal firm providing bad service, and particularly where complaints were made to the Law Society of Scotland and nothing was done, please send details to me.

Anonymous said...

You don't strike me as someone who needs honours Mr Cherbi.Getting the LPLA Act passed was a feat on it's own despite all the opposition to it from the profession.People surely respect you for that even if they hate your guts.

I think your suggestion the membership take a vote on Douglas Mill is gaining ground but whether anyone has the balls to put their head above the parapet is another matter !

quid pro quo said...

Douglas Mill looks very strained in that picture,the lack of hair down to dealing with you perhaps ?

I can't imagine why he would come out with a comparison of committing suicide over lack of respect, when his own colleagues have caused a few suicides and deaths through their own actions.

Don't they usually section people under the Mental Health Act for coming out with stuff like that in public ? Aren't his underlings the least bit worried their boss would come out with such gibberish in the national media ?

Clearly there is an infatuation with you at the Law Society for them to come out with those comments in the Scotland on Sunday story about the attack on their Chief Accountant.
If someone did that to me, I'd call the Police and ask they be charged with attempting to implicate someone in a criminal investigation.I now wonder why the Police did not investigate the Law Society for making those accusations against you in the press.There is clearly a malicious motivation to what was said against you. I think you should contact the Lord Advocate on what happened and what was said.

Anonymous said...

There's something very wrong about the Chief Executive of the Law Society of Scotland doing all this to you Mr Cherbi. I agree with others.There seems to be a case of extreme prejudice here against you and others who feel maligned by the legal profession in Scotland.

I'm inclined to agree with the last comment that the authorities there in Scotland should investigate the Law Society's remarks in the Scotland on Sunday.

Anonymous said...

Had to come here for some excitement because the hootsmon is so dull tonight and you don't disappoint !

Keep up the good work Peter, I noticed your comments on Monday against Mill and wondered if any lawyers would take you on but seems not.No one likes him then !

Anonymous said...

You certainly have my colleagues going around in circles Peter.

Far from wasting my lunch hour to read all this I think you would be a client magnet ! but you would have to work with people in the profession without eating them simply over a few mistakes.Is that possible after what you've all said against us ?

Anonymous said...

and they wonder why people take the law into their own hands ! what a bunch of crooked bastards running the show in Scotland.There should be a fucking blockade of your country to keep that lot from polluting the rest of the world.

What do you call a bunch of crooked lawyers stuffed into a crematorium ? a good start !

Anonymous said...

Honours seem more designed to keep people 'in check' than anything else .. rock the boat and we take it back so to speak"

Wonderfully put by Mr Cherbi.Marvellous and you don't need anything like that as many surely respect you for what you've done against the lawyers mafia.

Keep up the great work !

Anonymous said...

so are the hootsmon on Sunday going to put that one to rest ?

isnt it time they had a go back at the Law Society for trying to knock off Cherbi and critics over that attack ?

Anonymous said...

Dictators don't allow votes, which is why the Law Society is the way it is.