Friday, July 25, 2008

Rebranding fails to raise client trust in lawyers as poor standards & negligence dominate Scots legal sector

Imagine you needed a heart operation and you were just about to 'go under the knife' when you found out the surgeon had killed every single former patient in the same operation you were to undergo. Would you still proceed or would you ask for another surgeon ?

Chances are you would ask for another surgeon if you were told such a thing .. and thankfully in the medical world, there are plenty capable & qualified people who are not all a bunch of killers as some may put it so you might be in with a chance of finding the surgeon to your liking.

However, what happens if you come to sell your house and the lawyer you are using makes a complete mess of the deal to the point you only get half the value or less of your property .. or even worse, you find out the lawyer himself or one of his business partners bought your house on the cheap through a fiddled deal ? What would you do if that happened ? Would you try to find another lawyer to sort out the lawyer who ruined you ... or even try to take legal action against your former lawyer for fiddling your legal & financial affairs ?

Chances are you wont get another lawyer to do any of that .. because in the legal world, hardly any lawyer likes to 'sort out' another lawyer .. it just isn't on chaps, not only because lawyers don't usually sue other lawyers, but also because the Law Society of Scotland basically forbids such cases going to court in most instances or it might just have to start paying out huge sums of money from the profession’s Master Insurance Policy for professional negligence which you can read more about here : How to sue a lawyer in Scotland and get nowhere

So the lesson is .. any other profession, or industry (minus perhaps accountants) where a professional mucks up the task you set them .. you can normally find another to put it right .. not with a lawyer though .. no .. not a chance.

Try and complain against a lawyer after they have done you wrong, fleeced your finds, ruined your life .. you will find the legal profession itself will turn on you with a vengeance and ensure it is you who are the ruined one ... and oh my, there are just so many examples of that, it would take weeks to go through them all.

Suffice to say, lawyers don't sue other lawyers, and lawyers wont see their colleagues put out of their jobs, simply because they are crooks .. and with no way to find out how crooked your lawyer might be .. you are taking as big a chance going to a lawyer these days as you are attempting to walk blindfold across water.

So, which of Scotland’s legal firms have client complaints ?

Well the answer to that is of course, all of them. All legal firms and most or all lawyers have complaints made against them, in varying severity of course.

So, which legal firms or lawyers will tell you how bad they have been to clients ?

Obviously the answer to that one is : None of them ! Not one ! Ever !

You can’t find out any of the above information because of course, Freedom of Information isn’t allowed when it comes to lawyers, as the legal profession currently have an immunity from FOI as I reported in my earlier article of this week : Consumer protection weakened by lawyers FOI exemption while new Legal Complaints Commission must comply to information laws

With the eventual opening of Scotland's legal services market, after Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill's go slow approach lifts, there would of course be no need for the public to be forced to use any of Scotland's current framework of legal firms, because new entrants to the legal services sector could take a more honest approach, disclosing their full & up-to-date client service histories to all consumers .. something you will never find a Scots legal firm doing .. and I will tell you why.

Earlier this week, in a conversation with a senior lawyer, the extent of negligence claims against solicitors in Scotland was brought home to me where I was shown details of cases showing in twenty 'big name' legal firms from one city alone, at least one of the partners had no less than five negligence claims made against them.

Unsurprisingly most of those negligence cases remain unresolved, some stuck in court after eight years, due to 'intervention' from the Law Society of Scotland which of course, the outgoing Law Society Chief Executive claimed did not occur.

Here’s a couple of links to show what the Law Society do when it comes to stopping negligence cases going to court :

The Corrupt Link Revealed - How the Law Society of Scotland manages client complaints & settlements.

Law Society intervention in claims 'commonplace' as ex Chief admits Master Policy protects solicitors against clients

Not to be outdone by the written word, you can also see Douglas Mill claiming the Law Society of Scotland never intervened in complaints or claims against lawyers in video form here

Douglas Mill – It wisnae me who fiddled cases against my fellow lawyers even though my memos say so !

Yes .. before you say it, I do use that clip quite a lot .. but it is rather unique footage .. a Law Society Chief Executive lying to a Justice Committee over the content of his own memos and how he intervened in cases to stop people obtaining a measure of justice … even my own !

Now to get back to what I was saying, twenty lawyers from twenty legal firms with 100 negligence claims against them is quite a lot .. despite what the legal profession may have you believe. If you think of how many lawyers and legal firms there are in Scotland and how that statistic may repeat itself .. it must mean the Scots legal profession has a problem, to say the least.

The detail and severity of cases which were disclosed in that conversation showed to me we are talking serious figures here on serious complaints ranging from poor or fraudulent management of litigation for both private & corporate clients, to theft from deceased's estates to just about anything you could imagine ...

How indeed could anyone trust a 'big name' or perhaps 'brand name' legal firm again after that ? ... because really you don't know what you are getting when you go to them, despite the 'aura' of their 'name' and reputed proficiency .. which in reality does not exist.

Here's an example of how one solicitor can build up a history of negligence claims ... in this case we are talking about over twenty negligence claims against one solicitor but it seems that five or ten negligence claims against just about any lawyer you could name are not unusual these days in Scotland - thanks to the way the Law Society of Scotland has poorly regulated the legal profession over the past few decades.

A solicitor with 21 negligence claims against him – normal enough in today’s Scots legal services sector : Law Society of Scotland covers up history of crooked lawyer as new President indicates little change on pro lawyer anti client policies

There are it seems, many lawyers almost equalling the above reported case walking around with the full support of the Law Society of Scotland, still offering their poor legal services to unsuspecting members of the public who don’t know one thing about the person they are about to commit the most important legal aspects of their life to.

Would you use a lawyer who told you they had 21 negligence claims made against them for poor legal work ? Probably not !

What can you do to avoid these kinds of lawyers ?

Well at the moment, not much .. because the Law Society certainly wont be disclosing any regulatory records to enquiring members of the public .. should they do, I doubt anyone in the country would use a Scots lawyer after that.

Here’s an article I wrote a couple of years ago on disclosure of a lawyer’s regulatory history, which would benefit consumers and add to that level of consumer protection we all must surely expect from our legal representatives : Disclosing the regulatory history of lawyers in Scotland to help give choice to the consumer

You can, as clients, start insisting on seeing a lawyers regulatory record before you do business with them .. and really that isn't such a bad thing to ask or expect to receive, given the tasks you give a lawyer probably include or affect the most important details of your life.

Put it this way .. plenty of you look at the ingredients on your packaged food before you buy it ... so why not look at the ingredients of your lawyer before you hand over the keys to your life .... and just because you might be buying into a 'brand name' legal firm, doesn't always mean you are getting good quality or the promise of a successful outcome.

Here follows an article from this weeks Scotsman on 'brand awareness' in the Scots legal sector .. which perhaps you might want to question much harder before you take the plunge into legal bills and the inevitable poor legal service which seems to dog just about all litigation in Scotland these days.

Of course, it could just be this rebranding exercise is all about firms positioning themselves to be sold off to banks & financial companies who may enter the Scots legal services sector once the market is opened up to competition … but such would-be buyers of what appear to be ‘famous legal names’ should beware of buying into what might just be a case of ‘bad rubbish’, better maybe to start their own legal services firms with more customer friendly clean slates

Brand awareness begins to make inroads in a very traditional sector

Change in markets is leading firms into new territory and altering the way they communicate, says Jennifer Veitch

IT IS bright pink, it is bold, and it is unashamedly trying to generate new business from female clients. Pagan Osborne's recent Beauty Secrets marketing campaign – which offers to "smooth out frown lines" and "reduce dark circles" by easing the stress of life's big decisions – is something of a departure for a law firm with 250 years of tradition.

But, according to Tania Hemming, Pagan Osborne's marketing and business development director, the campaign is just a taste of how law firms might look to promote themselves in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

As the UK economy slows and the regulations governing legal services look set to be relaxed, Hemming says that firms will have to look at their branding.

"Our market is changing and because of alternative business structures, we are going to have to change the way we communicate," she says. "People buy very differently these days, and I think the profession has, sometimes, a quite stuffy image.

"Our campaign was such a shock when it came out – it's bright pink, it's a very strong female image, and it's not what you would expect. But you have to talk to clients in the way they want to be talked to."

Hemming had the idea for the recent marketing campaign – which invites women to meet the firm over coffee at Edinburgh style bar Tigerlily – after recent reports suggested women were often the financial decision makers in the household.

She says Beauty Secrets is already bringing in new business and has inspired plans for future campaigns.

According to Nathan Fulwood, the business development manager of web design agency Realise, whose clients include Pagan Osborne, Drummond Miller, Dickson Minto and the Law Society, more firms in the sector are recognising the need to create a stronger brand, particularly online.

"We're seeing that there is a willingness from solicitors to think differently about their presence on the web," he says. "For instance, there is an openness to borrowing experiences from other sectors, particularly in terms of embracing concepts of customer journey and life scenarios to engage clients on a more emotive level, not just on a 'need' basis."

He continues: "The use of the web has changed from purely brand promotion. Some (firms] have successfully used websites to disseminate information and knowledge and so establish a leadership position which drives people to them.

"Others increasingly recognise that the website is more about the person visiting the website and less about the firm itself.

"The web is now the place where the customer searches for services, including legal services. Therefore any solicitor has to have a distinctive presence online if it is going to have a competitive edge."

Donald Shaw, managing partner of Dundas & Wilson, agrees that the changing legal market will require firms to reconsider how they communicate to prospective clients, rather than relying on tradition or quality.

"In a large, diverse market like legal services, a favourable perception of your reputation or brand leads to more opportunity," he says. "It's important to us that we build on our reputation as a market leader and so we're very careful to ensure the DNA of the great things our business stands for is reflected in everything we do.

"A changing legal services landscape means that law firms need to adapt to compete. Quality of service will continue to speak for itself, but it's more important than ever to ensure the market knows who you are and what you can offer.

"Smaller firms in particular may have to face up to the prospect of focused consolidation, especially if highly effective companies such as Tesco seriously enter their market."

But Shaw cautions that branding can only go so far: "Having a brand is a safeguard, but only if you can be seen as having a strong consistent and different proposition – the trade-off being that smaller independent practitioners, used to autonomy, will need to work in a much more consistently branded and organised way to maintain any kind of market presence."

Dianne Paterson, a partner with Edinburgh-based Russel + Aitken, says her firm has recently launched a new marketing campaign – "Bringing the Law to Life" – that focuses on the legal services clients will need throughout their lifetime.

"The campaign, through innovative products and events, simply enforces the message to our clients and the public that we are not only one of the market leaders in this field but that we are also delivering these services to our clients in an energetic and engaging way," she says.

"Not only are people coming in to our offices for such advice but we are going out to the people and are currently involved in a series of road shows to promote our services.

"However, we are strongly of the view that you cannot simply invent a brand. It must be built up over the years from a good solid foundation and have good products at the heart of it."

Traditionally, legal firms were restricted in how they advertised themselves, with practice rules preventing firms from comparing themselves with others on fees or services. The rules were relaxed by the Law Society in 2006, allowing firms to compare themselves with rivals for the first time.

The society itself has recently recognised the importance of marketing, and unveiled its own re-branding earlier this year. A spokeswoman for the Society says the new brand has created consistency and a "stronger and clearer image".

She adds: "A brand is a representation of an organisation and as the Society is currently going through a period of change and modernisation, creating a new brand helped reflect that."

But not everyone in the profession sees the need to change direction in relation to branding and marketing. Louise Kean, the head of communications at Turcan Connell, says the firm will be sticking to its existing marketing plans.

"Looking from the perspective of our clients, both existing and prospective, we need them to know that we are here for them, continuing to provide a service that they need in these uncertain times," she says.

"Now more than ever, they need professional advice which gives them a sense of confidence that their affairs are in good order. So it's the consistency of our message that is crucial at this time.


Anonymous said...

So what you are saying is that its not safe to use any legal firm these days but who do we go to when we need a lawyer ?

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't touch any of those lawyers mentioned in the advertisement oh sorry I mean the story in the hootsmon !

Anonymous said...

From what I know of former colleagues your statistics of 5 negligence claims per at least 1 solicitor in 20 firms (assuming you mean the largest firms in Edinburgh) sounds about right.I'd say more.

Not something they will wish to flaunt around to clients. said...

Plenty more like O'Donnell walking around.

I know someone caught up in that whole thing and the Law Society are doing just as you say - not letting anyone get anywhere.

Anonymous said...

too bloody right Peter

A plumber screws up your pipes but you can still get another to fix it .Not with lawyers though oh no there wont be one to mend the other

Anonymous said...

If you would take off comment moderation I would tell your readers a story about how a lawyer at one of the mentioned firms embezzled more than £60,000 from my bank account during my stay in hospital.
I have complained about it and even called in the Police and nothing has been done to this day.I had promises from the Law Society the money would be repaid but nothing has come from that and I can't get a lawyer to do anything for me.I even wrote to the Scottish Government and get nothing doing replies.


Peter Cherbi said...

# Anonymous @ 12.21pm

That is why the legal services market needs to be opened up, to give more choice to customers.

# Anonymous @ 12.45pm

Quite right.

# Anonymous @ 12.56pm

Thanks for the confirmation.If you have any particular stories or information relating to specific solicitors or legal firms, please contact me.

# Anonymous @ 1.47pm

That sums it up fairly well.

# Anonymous @ 6.36pm

Please contact me with further details of what happened to you and the lawyer concerned.

Anonymous said...

Good on who said all lawyers are criminals.If they stole your money they should be thrown in jail along with the rest of the scum they keep in with just to raid the legal aid purse.

Hope you get some justice for what happened whoever you are.Get it in the papers if you can.

Anonymous said...

Very impressive Peter.I'm sure you will stir up a lot of trouble in the legal world and they deserve it for what they have done.

Maybe you should give the Law Society some advice on how to go about settling with clients instead of trying to ruin their lives as you so skilfully point out.

Anonymous said...

"Hemming had the idea for the recent marketing campaign – which invites women to meet the firm over coffee at Edinburgh style bar Tigerlily – after recent reports suggested women were often the financial decision makers in the household."

I will avoid Tigerlily as long as I live after reading that.

Anonymous said...

Nice idea from the lawyers - lets rip off the women and flummox them with legal gobbledegook.That should work brilliantly when they steal their family home from underneath their cappuccino !

I do hope hubby is in on the little shenanigans of the lawyers just in case they start touting for divorce business even when threes no reason to divorce!

Lord Dunderheed said...

Don't fancy going to a hotel with a lawyer.
You never know where it will lead - especially if its in Edinburgh and there's a few rent boys around !

Anonymous said...

Best thing to do is avoid buying the lawyers edition of the Scotsman on Monday if its filled with all that crap.Good thing you debunked it too although only brainless half wits would fall for advertising tactics such as those in the story !

Anonymous said...

Nice of you to recognise not all doctors are negligent maniacs although I do fear you are correct on lawyers not daring to take on one of their crooked brethren.It's all about money as is everything and there's just too much of it in a lawyer's eyes for them to do any good at the end of the day.

Anonymous said...

"not one to mend another" comes to mind as a phrase applicable to lawyers

i think that anyone who uses a lawyer these days is asking for trouble more than from whatever problem they are trying to resolve because the lawyer will see an opportunity and make it much worse either to get more money or to get their hands on another lump of property or land from some idiot client too think to realise it will backfire on them

Anonymous said...

Relax Peter the scotsman story is just an advertisement as you point out yourself.

I think some of those firms are positioning themselves to be hawked off to the nearest (and stupidest) entrants to the market after abs takes effect.

Maybe the likes of Tesco et all may want to think long & hard before buying into any of that old mutton.Better as you say the new boys start from scratch and build up something we can all use & trust.

Anonymous said...

Mr Cherbi I have been trying to get in contact with you for a week.I called the Scotsman newspaper this morning and they gave me your website listing.
I am a client of Stormonth Darling in Kelso the same firm which handled father's estate.My family are undergoing a similar trauma over what they did and I would be pleased to get in touch with you immediately because the Law Society didn't want to do anything about it until I mentioned your name to them.I would add we have been all round the Borders and no lawyer will take us on as clients presumably because Mr Poison has told them all not to take our case.One very nasty lawyer in Kelso threatened me over the phone that he would have us thrown out of our own house and said he would make our lives a living hell if we took the matter further.Please let me know how to get in touch with you.

Peter Cherbi said...

# Anonymous @ 2.12pm

Yes, I think many would agree with you, including myself.

# Anonymous @ 6.22pm

What you say seems to be so common these days, particularly when the lawyer feels (and perhaps knows) they will get away with it.

# Anonymous @ 8.06am

I agree. I hope the likes of Tesco and the big banks who may enter the opened legal services market start afresh rather than buy up the present market rulers - who only rule through monopoly and poor standards which can never be mended as things currently stand.

# Anonymous @ 10.47am

Thanks for your comment and I have received an email from a friend of mine you contacted this morning. I will get back to you later today now I know the story.

Anonymous said...

Definitely sounds like Kelso in the Borders is not the place to be if you need a solicitor.

The person who was threatened by the lawyer in that way should go to the press.I hope they recorded the telephone phone call !

Anonymous said...

Interesting saga of Stormonth Darling.I know an Edinburgh firm which was approached to represent several clients against them but haven't heard anything recent.

Anonymous said...

Thnks for the advice.I wont be using any lawyers if I can help it now.

Anonymous said...

turds can't be polished so no amount of spin will put a shine on a lawyer

inabit said...

Too dangerous to trust too awful to use especially with the thieving mentality most lawyers exhibit on their clients.

If you want to do something involving the law you better steer clear of Scotland !

Anonymous said...

"turds can't be polished so no amount of spin will put a shine on a lawyer"

Hilarious and they only have themselves to blame !

Anonymous said...

Oh what fibs some people tell about how good their legal firms are.

I think Tesco and any major player interested in buying into the legal services sector in Scotland really need to think hard before bidding for any of the present players.

As you rightly put Peter, it would be better to start afresh and I can't honesty think of anyone more deserving of a position in that market than you yourself.A firm with you in it is bound to attract bus loads of clients with all kinds of business (a compliment!).

? said...

I take it you are aware one of those legal firms are involved in a huge scandal but the paper has forbidden itself from covering the story.Maybe you can do some digging and write it yourself.Plenty willing to talk I bet.

Anonymous said...

You jocks are all the same - lets not have anyone being a success in their profession or industry.No wonder your country is backward.Just look what happened to Donald Trump who came over with good intentions only to have it thrown back in his face.

Anonymous said...

Good for you Peter.I was just reading the Law Society's website and they have a release on how to deal with redundancies in the legal sector.Looks like lawyers will be getting sacked too because of the way their rotten profession has treated you and plenty more like you.

Keep up the good work and I will spread some of your writing around for people to be better informed about these crooks.

twitcher said...

Quite easy to debunk this kind of propaganda from lawyers because its so obvious but at the end of the day we still don't have one legal firm we can really trust which is a bloody terrible indictment of Scotland.

Anonymous said...

Hilarious comment re Donald Trump.

Obviously i-am-rich hired the wrong people for his project otherwise it would be up and running by now.Doesn't that actually show don't hire Scots professionals because they will arse it up in the end just like Scots lawyers do?

Anonymous said...

Those lawyers are so full of themselves its unbelievable!

Any word yet on who is getting Douglas Mill's job? I heard it might be Radovan Karadzic ! Just the type the Council will be looking for since Hitler and Stalin are unavailable just now!

Peter Cherbi said...

Thanks for all your comments.

Generally there needs to be a lot more public awareness of a lawyer's track record, which is why for a long time I have argued for full regulatory disclosure to all clients, by the lawyer and the legal firm so consumers know what they are getting into by hiring that particular lawyer or legal firm.

Surely it should be a case of consumer's 'right to know' because at the moment, there's more information on a carton of eggs at the supermarket than is available on any lawyer in Scotland.

The comment made regarding Scotland not being happy about those being a success in their profession (I take it that refers to lawyers) is wholly unjustified and the comparison regarding Mr Trump seems a little off. I would agree with the reply comment to that.

It will be interesting to see who gets Douglas Mill's job .... probably someone in the same mould as Mr Mill, I doubt anyone who might do some good will get it, given the Law Society's continued hostile stance against the fee paying clients.

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter

I agree with you - the Law Society wont change one bit neither will any of this lot who are busy on a round of self promotion to sell themselves off to the highest and blindest bidders.

As for all those lawyers mentioned in that scotsman piece I wouldn't pay 10pence for the lot of them together!
They are such an unredeemable bunch they cant even be recycled!!

Anonymous said...

Now theres an idea - the way the Law Society has treated people after they have been ruined by crooked lawyers they should all be done for crimes against humanity

wee rab said...

Well Done Peter! Not one of those firms are any good in that hootsmon piece of legal propaganda.It would be a lot better if they admitted how many clients they have nailed to the wall but I can see thats done to others to do these days !

Anonymous said...

I would not touch TC with a bargepole and most definitely not KL of the same!
The majority of lawyers I have come across are liars and are interested in little else other than lining their own pockets and most usually with the collaboration of their opponents lawyers, just ask TC!

Anonymous said...

Have you heard the one about the bigwig Edinburgh lawyer who threatened his client with a handgun?Don't see a mention in the papers yet.

Anonymous said...

How many of the top notch Edinburgh lawyers visited Jersey?

Anonymous said...

Most or all lawyers collude together with the other side to fatten their wallets.Thats been known about for years.How about making public all lawyers accounts and fees so everyone can see what a bunch of leeches lawyers really are.

Anonymous said...

Mr Penman was not worth all the hassle you have caused us Mr Cherbi.

Maybe his agent at the committee knew where the bodies were buried but truly no one wanted what came next.

I liked your other story on freedom of information.It will cause no end of trouble which I as a retiring solicitor will watch with interest.

Peter Cherbi said...

Thanks for your further comments.

# Anonymous @ 9.51pm

I think many are in the same boat as you from what I hear of TC.

# Anonymous @ 6.40am

Yes I have and a newspaper is apparently working on the story. I will leave it to them to break then write about it later.

# Anonymous @ 8.12am

From the well known habits of some .. possibly a few ? If you have any details or names be sure to report them to the media before you report them to the Police.

# Anonymous @ 1.30pm

I'd say that's common practice and I agree with your idea about making lawyers bills public as well as their fee structure. I will write more about that in an upcoming article after some work on this issue this week.

# Anonymous @ 4.31pm

I made no hassle for the legal profession - the Law Society of Scotland did that, then hounded me no end to make sure I had no access to justice just as they have done to many clients who have dared complain about their solicitor.

Don't you think those many cases should be put right if the legal profession wants to move into being a profession which can be trusted without all this "hassle" it causes itself ?

Anonymous said...

"Anonymous said...

How many of the top notch Edinburgh lawyers visited Jersey?"

You are behind the times.One has already committed suicide and others who were known regulars to Jersey are 'under suspicion'.All of them have families too.

Anonymous said...

Would the person who made this comment :
"You are behind the times.One has already committed suicide and others who were known regulars to Jersey are 'under suspicion'.All of them have families too"

please contact the News of the World @

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I am very interested to hear who among the Edinburgh legal fraternity is involved in the Jersey scandal.Probably a few if you take some of their stranger habits into consideration!

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