Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The polluter pays - Why cleaning up lawyers sins of the past would be good for the public & legal profession alike

The attempts by the Law Society of Scotland, and it's sponsored political allies to stall moves to heel the public's relationship with Scotland's failing justice system & legal profession continue unabated, and despite moves by campaign groups, consumer organisations, and even myself to move the process along, the vested interests of injustice seem to have the edge for now, but what is this thing they fear most ?

A simple plan to say "I'm sorry", and a move to bring redress, compensation, accountability and closure to the many cases of injustice of the past caused by the legal profession itself ...

With the present levels of public disrespect of the legal profession & dissatisfaction of the abysmal quality of legal services & restricted access to justice in Scotland, it is now time for matters to be put right, for someone to come forth and heel the deep divisions between lawyer & client, which are damaging the legal profession and the very foundations of justice itself in Scotland.

It is a very easy step to take, and none too complicated a one, where simply the sins of the past must be acknowledged by the legal profession, and put right.

Complaints and scandals, some decades old, need addressed in the here & now, they must be reconsidered, given redress, and given the very closure which should have followed at the time of incident, which the Law Society of Scotland and the legal profession consistently failed to do, and still fail to do.

To understand the present and the future, one must first understand the past, where complaints were and still are regulated by the Law Society of Scotland in a lawyer regulates lawyer approach.

For the last couple of decades , complaints against lawyers have soared from two to three thousand a year in the early 1990's to between five thousand to eight thousand a year after 1998. An almost minuscule percentage of those complaints ever see the client actually get back what was lost to the inaction, negligence, or incompetence of their solicitor.

Why is that ? It's because the legal profession have, like many other professions, had the privilege of regulating themselves, and in a lawyer regulates lawyer world, nothing will ever be done against a lawyer now, will it ...

Lawyers regulating lawyers, or "self regulation" as it is more commonly known .. has served the legal profession very well by keeping its dirty secrets locked away, and ensuring that clients have little or no rights of redress against their solicitors when things go wrong. The Law Society of Scotland's "Client Relations Office" under the leadership of Philip Yelland, functioned perfectly in whitewashing lawyer after lawyer even in the most serious complaints with overwhelming evidence of wrongdoing or even criminal activity ...

Philip Yelland - Director of Regulation and head of the Law Society's "Client Relations Office" mishandling client relations ...

Philip Yelland - Director of Regulation - Law Society of Scotland

The Law Society of Scotland, has spectacularly used self regulation over its decades of existence to ensure that very policy ... complain against your lawyer, and you get nowhere, and just for good measure, are denied access to justice & legal services in the future.

While of course, many lawyers who have faced serious client complaints over everything from embezzlement to theft of property, even identity theft on a grand scale, have generally gotten away with it while the Law Society has sat there as the profession's governing body ensuring the particular complaint gets binned and the client gets no redress for what happened.

Of course, throwing out complaint after complaint, many with genuine tales of severe wrongdoing, even negligence on the part of their solicitors, eventually builds up a great swathe of disgruntled clients, who genuinely have been wronged by solicitors, and further wronged by the legal profession's regulator who has done nothing for them.

Thus with the great swathe of disgruntled clients, and members of the public who have read of scandal after scandal involving crooked lawyers, the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007 was born to 'redress' the public perception of Scotland's legal profession, seen as dire, crooked, corrupt and generally a bad place to trust a lawyer do any kind of legal business for individuals or the corporate sector.

Such as things are with the LPLA Act, the legislators have failed entirely to restore any level of public confidence in the ability of anyone to impartially regulate lawyers and as things stand, it can only get worse, as the policies of the current although outgoing Law Society of Scotland Chief Executive Douglas Mill, continue to ensure stall after stall on both regulatory and access to justice reforms.

Douglas Mill - Law Society Chief Executive who would rather that lawyers regulate lawyers ... whitewashing preferred !

Douglas Mill at the Scottish Parliament

You can read more about Douglas Mill's exploits in his 11 year reign as Chief Executive at the Law Society of Scotland here : Douglas Mill - How to ruin the legal profession in eleven years

Even before the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission takes its first shaky steps, revelations that Law Society staff who may have purposely mishandled tens of thousands of client complaints against lawyers in the past, have transferred over to the new commission, complete even with former "Lay Members" of the Law Society's "Complaints Committee" circuit, have given the public a taste of things to come - which is basically 'expect the same' treatment as before.

You can read more in my earlier report on the problems & scandals of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission here : Scottish Legal Complaints Commission - protecting the public or protecting the legal profession ?

The Law Society are simply able to get away with this, as the Justice Department of the Scottish Government under Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, seems not to have a clue about how to effectively independently regulate lawyers, or even show a willingness to do so, with the Justice Secretary himself coming out with the occasional outburst of pro-lawyer anti-public statements ...

Kenny MacAskill - SNP owes Law Society a big debt .. but who voted who in last May ?

As things stand, only a madman would trust a lawyer who has 25 negligence complaints made by clients against them, but at present, the public are not allowed to know such statistics or information, so madmen are aplenty.

This happens only because clients don't know what they are getting into .. but clients would know what or who they were getting into if a solicitor's full regulatory disclosure was required for client-solicitor agreements, as I have reported on in the past.

You can read my earlier report on regulatory disclosure to clients here : Disclosing the regulatory history of lawyers in Scotland to help give choice to the consumer

However, there is a good 'first step' the legal profession, and the Government could take to heal the public's relationship with the legal profession. That simple step, is : Truth & Reconciliation.

Truth & Reconciliation doesn't have to mean that vast swathes of the legal profession end up jobless over the many clients they have ruined over the years, but it does mean that those clients and members of the public who had their finances or lives ruined all just because of a lawyer, must be fully and compassionately compensated for the terrible wrongs made upon them, which should never have occurred.

Accountability must too be apportioned if those wrongs are to be righted, and professionals must answer for their actions in some way or another, but the overwhelming aim of this move is to heal the public's mistrust of a legal profession which uses every twist & turn, every deceit, cuts every corner and fiddles as it goes, to get off the hook from a complaint or scandal which has ruined a life.

I have of course suggested a way that Truth & Reconciliation can progress on this issue, with the following petition to the Scottish Parliament :

Petition PE1033 - A proposal of Truth & Reconciliation for the public & legal profession to heal the client - solicitor relationship.

PE1033 Page 1PE1033 Page 2PE1033 Page 3

Regrettably, as I reported before, my parliamentary petition was silenced on the orders of the Law Society of Scotland itself, who sent one of their well known number to the Parliament, by way of letter ... Mr Michael Clancy.

Michael Clancy orders the closure of Petition PE1033 at the Scottish Parliament .. by letter rather than attendance ...

Law Society of Scotland PE1033 Page 1Law Society of Scotland PE1033 Page 2

Michael Clancy - The Law Society's 'Director of Law Reform', but it seems, no friend of Truth & Reconciliation in the public interest

Michael Clancy - Director of Law Reform - Law Society of Scotland

I am sorry there are those who feel the need to constantly step on the public and victims of their colleagues, to the point they must intervene at every single turn in life to ensure that reforms, which are clearly in the public interest, fail ... to protect their vested interests in the continuation of injustice ...

I am indeed sorry that Mr Clancy, again, typically enforces the Law Society's widely held belief that members of the public who dissent from the Law Society's policy on regulation must be hunted down in every way imaginable .. but it is nevertheless time that moves are put forward for a fairer deal of those who suffer from the legal profession's sins of the past.

It could achieve so much for Scotland, by doing not too much ... and it would be good for everyone to finally lay the sins of the past to rest, properly and compassionately to show Scotland the legal profession, and the legal system itself is capable of recognising and putting right the wrongs it has committed.

Now if that were to happen .. people might just show a little more much needed respect for both the legal profession and Scots Law ... and perhaps more importantly, clients will have a sense of security & trust to use Scots legal services again, which at present, cannot really be trusted to perform adequately.That has to be good for everyone !

How about it everyone ? A little Truth & Reconciliation to help Scots Justice and legal services get back on track by getting the polluter who caused the problem to put it right .. with a little leadership in this area shown by Government and political representatives ?

Surely not too much to ask or expect ... and I see the First Minister is getting into the Truth & Reconciliation mood himself as Scottish Law Reporter reports ... so things might just be looking up ? First Minister orders study of truth & reconciliation commission after law lords refuse abuse cases


Anonymous said...

You hit things on the head as usual Mr Cherbi but I fear you will never achieve getting individual lawyers to say they are "sorry".That will have to come from the profession instead.

Anonymous said...

Good update.I've been writing to Philup Yelland for years and getting nowhere.I think its time for change too.

Good luck and thanks for keeping us informed on these crooks.

Anonymous said...

It is one thing for Salmond to catch the public eye by latching onto a single issue, cheap publicity and window dressing some might say.

What has prevented him ever taking on a single profession, whose wrongs he and many other politicians have long since known of and continue to tacitly support?

Anonymous said...

Mr Clancy should spend more of his time examining his colleagues appalling conduct towards clients instead of bullying parliament committees into submission on public petitions.

I understand Michael hangs around Holyrood 'like a buzzard' according to one journalist I'm sure you know quite well.

Peter Cherbi said...

#Anonymous @ 8.01pm

I agree with you, although the way the Law Society has a hold on things just now, including as you can see, the Justice Secretary himself, I doubt anyone will be saying sorry for the foreseeable future.

Perhaps they prefer the legal services industry to go down the tubes so they can keep their hand on a smaller less profitable market ...

#Anonymous @ 8.56pm

Thousands of people have been writing to Mr Yelland over the years, and got nowhere.It's time for all that to change, and the damage he and his colleagues have done to real people, put right.

#Anonymous @ 10.04pm

You only need to watch the video of Kenny MacAskill spouting forth the "great debt owed by the SNP Government to the legal profession which will not be forgotten" to answer your question ...

It seems we must make our MSPS more accountable themselves to do the work they were elected to do ...

#Anonymous @ 10.47pm

Yes he does as you can see how he closed down my own petition.I know a few other people who may have choice words to say about Mr Clancy interfering in their cases which were/are being handled by their elected representatives in the Parliament ...

Anonymous said...

As someone who has had many competent complaints dismissed by the Law Society of Scotland in order to protect their very members who wronged me i would welcome your proposal Peter of T & C

Because of the dealings i have had with them though i have no faith the Law Society would ever accept such proposals.

Their main moto is protect their members at all costs especially their Presidents Past and Present

Wullie Beck

Anonymous said...

Apparently the OFT are investigating Anti Competitive Conduct by our biggest banks with links to Scottish Lawyers.
Apparently according to Yeterday's Evening Times Barclay's have done a bit of squeeling on RBS.

Barclay's contacted OFT after its commercial banking operation had been approached in a manner which they regarded as inappropriate.

According to Yesterdays Sun Newspaper:
Last Months Raids were part of an investigation into suspected Price-Fixing in loans to professionals such as Lawyers and Accountants.

Wondering if it has anything to do with the fact All Scots Lawyers Must Subscribe to the Mater Policy Insurance By The Law Society.

Certainlty A Conflict Of Interest which I for one hope OFT take up

Anonymous said...

The OFT should be investigating why Law Society Of Scotland Make all lawyers In Scotland Become Members, and Insist they Use Marsh and Royal Sun Alliance Insurance.

Surely this is not in the Lawyers Interests and comes under "Price Fixing"

They should sort out this sorry lot before all confidence is lost for good

Poirot said...

As I said to you yesterday Peter,the average number of complaints a lawyer gets a year is 3.
Even taking the in-house lawyers out of the equation (who also get complained against despite what others will have you believe) there must be well over 20,000 complaints a year going into the Law Society of Scotland.
How they arrive at 4000 or so shows their arithmetic to be well out and even screening for the strongest complaints can't break the figures down to their claimed levels.
I think its a point you should emphasise as what comes out of the Law Society by way of statistics are not always to be believed.

Anonymous said...

A good proposal and I wish you all the success it should have.I can see why Clancy shut you down though as the Law Society will have to admit an awful lot of mistakes !

Anonymous said...

Most solicitors I know cant stand any of those individuals in the photos accompanying your article Mr Cherbi.
I think most solicitors would also welcome your proposals to clean up what is really the Law Society's mess and put things to rest which have done the profession more harm than good.

Anonymous said...

Comment : "It is one thing for Salmond to catch the public eye by latching onto a single issue, cheap publicity and window dressing some might say.

What has prevented him ever taking on a single profession, whose wrongs he and many other politicians have long since known of and continue to tacitly support?"

Answer : Backhanders bungs party funding & extra votes if the professions are left alone ?

Anonymous said...

I was reading some of your comments in the Scotsman from a long time ago, where someone opposing you raised the argument there are complaints in all professions - which is true.

However taking the example of the plumber which was referred to, normally if one plumber makes a complete mess of your plumbing work you can get another to come and repair the damage.Not so with lawyers I fear as lawyers who take on cases to chase crooked lawyers tend to go down the same route or perhaps receive orders from the Law Society to waste away your money until you are out of it or out of your home.
Lawyers will never take on crooked lawyers properly so the farce of that idea should be exposed and dumped.
Your commission proposal sounds like a good idea so keep at it.

Jane Nisbet said...

Good luck Peter.I think you are doing a wonderful job.Its just a pity the lawyers are so dead against anyone who exposes injustice when they themselves claim to be doing the same.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Jane Nisbet.Keep up the good work Mr Cherbi and your petition sounds just the medicine to help people out.

Anonymous said...

If you can actually get the lawyers to sign up to that it would be a good thing as you say.I don't believe the Law Society will go for it though.They are too involved in all this corruption and have a lot to lose to admit they were wrong so much of the time.
Evil people rarely admit they are evil - and this Law Society is thoroughly evil.

Anonymous said...

last comment about the evil law society is spot on !

Anonymous said...

Interesting idea and one which should be given the full support of the profession at large.
Putting you lot our of our heads would do wonders for the rest of us as we have more to do than worry about the bad apples which tarnish the rest of us.

You should try and get one of the big legal firms to sponsor this idea if you can.Remember not all of us hate you for your work - some of us adore you for the way you took on the Law Society !

Anonymous said...

A suggestion born out of common sense.I hope the idea gets taken up.

Anonymous said...

Interesting how you end the piece but why does Alex Salmond need a study of truth and reconciliation when everyone knows how it works.Wouldn't it be better to start now and do what you are asking in your petition than waste another 2 years or more in useless public consultations and studies.

Peter Cherbi said...

#Wullie Beck @ 12.59am

I agree with you about the Law Society's motives on complaints, and I hope my T&R proposition is taken up by the Scottish Government to get the legal profession to make amends for its many wrongs to all concerned.

#Anonymous @ 1.53pm

It's no accident the banks you mention are heavily connected with the legal profession, and offer favourable finance deals to lawyers who use them for their business .. and to hold client funds ...

#Anonymous @ 2.25am

I think confidence is already lost in the legal profession - from the public's standpoint.

It could be restored with the use of Truth & Reconciliation though ...

#Poirot @ 8.09am

Well, as you are a lawyer yourself, I will bow to your estimate of complaints.

If it is true there are 20,000 or so complaints a year against lawyers in Scotland that is a very grave issue, and may account for lawyers unpopularity ...

#Anonymous @ 8.39am

Yes, a clerk at the Parliament filled me in on Mr Clancy's movements there .. he seems to knock a lot 'reform proposals' out which have anything to do with the law ... not just my petition !

#Anonymous @ 2.48pm

Thanks, I would welcome some assistance from anyone in the legal profession who does support my T&R proposals.

#Anonymous @ 3.45pm

Very good points which I agree with.Hopefully the answer to this is to open up the legal services market, and have a fully independent regulator with no connections to the legal profession whatsoever.

#Jane Nisbet @ 5.10pm

Thanks, and good luck to all of us who are working for the same aim.

To the remaining comments, the best way to press ahead with Truth & Reconciliation is to publicise it as much as possible.Contact your elected representatives and do as much as you can to ensure that such a strategy is implemented to clear up our failed legal system and disrespected legal profession. It is certainly in all our interests to succeed - public and solicitor alike.

Anonymous said...

I don't doubt your sincerity for one minute but I think you will need to get as many campaign institutions on your side for this to progress.

Good luck with it and keep up the good work Mr Cherbi.

Anonymous said...

All reforms have enemies who do well from the corruption the reforms are intended to do away with and I think your 3 photos give us an idea of who we should be avoiding listening to.

If you can get your ideas accepted by the SNP there should be no bar to them being implemented asap.

Good luck and as everyone says keep up the writing Mr Cherbi.