Thursday, August 07, 2008

Law Society target ‘outsider staff’ for exit at Complaints Commission as lawyers undermine attempts at independent regulation

It has been revealed that staff from the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman who are intending to migrate to the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission will face lower salaries and lower employment prospects and promotion possibilities than their counterparts migrating over to the new Commission from the Law Society of Scotland.

As if that isn’t enough to take, the former Ombudsman staff will have to endure concerted attempts by the legal profession to replace them in favour of yet more staff from the Law Society itself, in what is being seen as a well planned attempt by the legal profession to force out anyone from the new Commission who isn’t connected with the Law Society of Scotland.

It has emerged that :

* former Ombudsman staff who are migrating to the SLCC will receive up to £18,000 less than former Law Society of Scotland staff who are themselves undermining migrating over to the new Commission under TUPE legislation, with similar but apparently far less equitable provisions for public sector employees for the Ombudsman's staff transferring over.

* Law Society staff are to be considered for managerial and senior posts (rumours that some have already been appointed via strong lobbying from the Law Society itself) where former staff from the Ombudsman are to be excluded from any possibility of promotion.

* Law Society staff who are promoted to senior positions and who will be in charge of former Ombudsman staff, will be able to influence and control investigations still being carried out into their work from their time at the Law Society.

*The Scottish Government, aware of the huge disparity in salaries between Law Society staff and former Ombudsman staff, are rumoured to be hoping that if it all goes quietly, former Ombudsman staff will leave the new Commission over their lesser salary and job entitlements, to be replaced by Law Society staff who are apparently already being lined up to replace anyone considering leaving !

According to sources within the Law Society itself, the campaign is being orchestrated to "hound out" the former members of staff from the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman's office, who the legal profession apparently see as "outsiders" who, according to one solicitor “should not be given any say in how complaints against lawyers are handled”.

Dreadful comments from the legal profession, if of course, expected. I for one feel there shouldn’t be any Law Society staff working at the new Commission because the Law Society and its teachings in the field of regulation, simply cannot be trusted, ever.

MacAskill tight lippedKenny MacAskill – no comment so far on SLCC scandal. The Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill has so far refused to comment directly on turmoil at the new Commission, however a Scottish Government spokeswoman today made the following statement, confirming many of the the reported revelations :

The Scottish Government : “The creation of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission will see a transfer of activities of all functions of the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman and some functions of the Law Society of Scotland to the Commission.”

“Accordingly staff whose job functions will transfer to the Commission will be eligible to transfer with that job function. Where there are salary differences for employees from the SLSO and the LSS performing the same function at the Commission then this is a matter for the Commission to address in due course.”

So, the Ombudsman staff have been left to fend for themselves in their new posts at the SLCC, while the Law Society staff get their full salaries ! Disgusting to say the least.

I wonder how the former Ombudsman staff feel about that one … what a disgraceful situation to be in for the few people from the Ombudsman’s office who are giving the public the sole hope of independence within the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.

On the allegation that staff from the Law Society had already been ‘lined up’ for managerial posts and senior positions within the new Commission, the Scottish Government denied that would be the case :

“This is incorrect and is non compliant with COSOP and TUPE. Consideration of appointment to managerial posts and promotion will be a matter for the Commission to decide.

Well, it seems they will have to remind the Law Society of that one, who are apparently now busy arranging positions for their own staff to take up at the new Commission … and we all know that when the Law Society wants something, it usually gets it.

There is little doubt among those in the know, the former Ombudsman staff may well find themselves at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to appointments to managerial and senior posts at the new SLCC – hardly any inspiration to stay where one is being treated worse than those migrating over from the Law Society of Scotland.

Given the prospect of Law Society members of staff being in senior positions and placed in charge of investigations into their own poor conduct, the Government remained un committal, citing that “Staff promotions, work content and work practices will be a matter for the Commission to decide.”

However, leaving staff promotions up to the new Commission wont work I fear, as much of the Commission itself are members of the Law Society of Scotland who will be familiar with their staff who are migrating over from the Law Society, leaving the former Ombudsman staff out in the cold.

Some of my previous coverage of problems at the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission :

Call for MacAskill appointments 'sleaze investigation' as revelations show Legal Complaints Commission member was subject of Police inquiry

Law Society staff secretly migrating into 'independent' complaints commission will ensure continuing problems of regulating Scottish lawyers

Calls for full disclosure on legal complaints commission members as Justice Department 'covers up' conflicts of interest in appointments scandal

Scottish Legal Complaints Commission - protecting the public or protecting the legal profession ?

Without doubt, the legal profession are in a state of fear the former Ombudsman staff, or "outsiders" as the Law Society seem to feel they are, will break some of the ‘lawyer covering up for lawyer’ habits which have plagued regulation of the legal profession in Scotland for decades, and this latest attempt, to take over the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission itself, is certainly a move in that direction.

The Law Society would prefer to have the new complaints commission staffed entirely by members of staff from Law Society itself, and unfortunately the former Ombudsman staff now find themselves in the middle of a war with the legal profession to see it gets its way.

With possibly only Jane Irvine, the new Chairman of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, being the only champion of her former staff from her time as Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman, positions are looking somewhat precarious for not only the staff at risk but also the credibility of what was to be an independent complaints commission, which is now mostly staffed from the very organisation, the Law Society of Scotland, whose problems brought about the new commission's existence in the first place.

Jane Irvine, Chairman of the SLCC, sought to defuse the situation by commenting : "I think you have to bear in mind that there is a complex picture here, Law Society staff do not know everything and we are creating a new organisation with a new culture and a new drive towards resolving complaints swiftly and fairly."

Yes, I agree of course, Law Society staff who are migrating over to the new SLCC have been trained to do the opposite of what they are about to do, for years. Decades have went by while those same Law Society staff, now transferring over to the SLCC have thwarted client complaints at every turn, made sure claims for solicitors negligence, even claims for solicitors theft from client funds have gone unanswered or have been deliberately delayed to the point they can no longer be pursued in a court of law.

Creating a new organisation with a new culture and a new drive towards resolving complaints swiftly and fairly, will be difficult, considering the habits, and misplaced loyalties which will inevitably resurface in the Law Society staff, some of whom themselves aspire to be lawyers if not already qualified to be.

Further comments from senior sources within the legal profession predict the Law Society will assume control of the SLCC 'within a year at most', a move which would spell disaster for many who had hoped the new Commission would be a breath of fresh air in dealing with complaints against lawyers, but a move which will be made much easier and faster, with the forced departure of former Ombudsman staff, if the Law Society has its way ...

Kenny MacAskill – Scottish Govt. owes lawyers a great debt – to be repaid taking away the independence of the SLCC perhaps ?

Jane Irvine countered any attempt to control the SLCC from outside : "It is not the Law Society who control the new body. We are entirely independent."

I hope Jane Irvine is correct, and I do support the independence of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission as it was intended to be, but most people who are about to go into court against the Law Society say the same thing .. something like .. “the Law Society doesn't control the court, we will win ..” and that is the end of their case and the end of their access to justice as we all know only too well.

If I may make a suggestion, one I know which wont be taken up but one which seems more consistent with the term ‘independence’ than what is currently being delivered in the SLCC : keep the former Ombudsman staff, and look for new recruits who don't come from the legal profession or the Law Society of Scotland.

Sadly however, the Law Society of Scotland, through its determination to maintain control of all aspects of regulation of the legal services sector, wont be allowing anything as honest, accountable and acceptable as that suggestion to become reality.

Back to the drawing board on complaints against lawyers, everyone ? This time, lets make it a fully independent regulator with no staff stuffed into it by the legal profession itself …


Anonymous said...

Oh well that's that then and why shouldn't the Law Society say who staffs this new commission? We as a profession are paying for the bloody thing and all because of you I suspect.
Out of interest are you standing up for the Ombudsman now or is that a new thing with you?

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't accept those terms either and why the discrimination anyway in salaries ?
I take it the Law Society lot were getting paid even more to kill off complaints when they worked at the Law Society.
What a load of crooks! they should all be thrown in jail.I don't think the public would miss them at all !

Anonymous said...

As the majority of appointed members on the Commission are linked to the Law Society - contrary to what was promised - is it any suprise that the same imbalance is to be replicated in the lower echelons of the same 'independent' Commission?

Anonymous said...

Good story.

Now you have broke this the Ombudsman staff will get their £18thou extra and just maybe the Law Society wont be able to have them chucked out of their jobs.

I don't think this is much of an independent thing anyway.How about you joining it and giving us some certainty complaints will be handled properly ?

Anonymous said...

Seems to be this independent body isn't so independent after all and lawyers will again be looking after their own.

What do you suggest we do about it Peter ?

Anonymous said...

What on earth is going on with MacAskill ? Are the lawyers running the show or what ?

Anonymous said...

Read this for a bout of lack of inspiration :

Anonymous said...

Jane Irvine better watch out for her job too because the way you portray it this thing she is the boss of is just the Law Society renamed !

Anonymous said...

It seems anything to do with lawyers in Scotland shouldn't be touched and this latest story is just terrible.Who do people go to for some security against these thieves ?

Anonymous said...

"Back to the drawing board on complaints against lawyers, everyone ? This time, lets make it a fully independent regulator with no staff stuffed into it by the legal profession itself"

Yes I think we have to and this time I hope you are in it !

Anonymous said...

Good work and you got an admission from the Government.I wouldn't like to be working in the SLCC after that report.

Anonymous said...

The change in regulation is an important reform and thus merits Ministerial comment.
For Kenny MacAskill to stay silent marks the office holder as a coward in the face of what is clearly an ongoing process by the Law Society to undermine the SLCC.
Keep up the good work Peter.It seems there are too many cowards staying silent on the corruption in the legal fraternity but I thank you for being brave enough to speak out.

Peter Cherbi said...

# Anonymous @ 3.23pm

Assuming you are a lawyer, your comment is proof enough an independent regulator is needed to govern the legal services sector.

In the circumstances, yes I think you could say I am giving my support to Jane Irvine, but we will have to see what track record the SLCC develops from it's handling of complaints.

# Anonymous @ 3.36pm

I would agree with your comment.

I understand the Law Society staff who are transferring over were at a higher salary level, and under the TUPE regulations they will retain that salary level.

The Ombudsman staff transferring over are public sector staff and there appears to be less protection for their salaries it seems. Not a happy position.

# Anonymous @ 3.59pm

I think you summarised the position perfectly, and on that note, I fear for the future of the SLCC as things currently stand.

# Anonymous @ 4.18pm

Hopefully the Ombudsman's staff will be treated equitably as I think they will be the only ones within the SLCC who can give the public a hope that regulatory matters will be handled properly and fairly.

To be honest, I am glad I am not at the SLCC, but if I was offered a position there along the terms you suggest, I would take it to see what was going on. However, I am outspoken and if I saw something was not right or someone was being treated unfairly, I would see to it the world knew about it and that something was done to help that person or persons.

# Anonymous @ 4.52pm

I agree with your comment .. the SLCC does lack independence in its present format.

I think the best thing for now is to spread the message and alert the public to the problems at the SLCC and with regulation of the legal services sector in general.

A good public campaign might help !

# Anonymous @ 5.09pm

I think the answer to that is a "Yes" !

# Anonymous @ 5.15pm

I think I could do a better interview with Jane Irvine ... but the questions would be a lot sharper considering what has gone on over the years with the Law Society and ruined clients of many legal firms.

# Anonymous @ 6.29pm

I'm sure that has already been suggested in some quarters ...

# Anonymous @ 7.28pm

The answer of course is to open up the Scottish legal services market, which would ensure you don't need to use a solicitor to obtain access to justice .. there would be plenty legal services companies offering legal services at a much reduced price, with a strictly maintained quality by a fully independent regulator.

# Anonymous @ 7.45pm

To be honest, I'm sure that if the previous administration had been left in office, we wouldn't have seen many of the problems at the SLCC we are seeing now.

What is going on is down to the Justice Secretary himself. Mr MacAskill has the power to change what is happening, but he is choosing to sit on the fence. I would venture to say that is dereliction of duty.

# Anonymous @ 9.17pm

Well, now its time to repair the damage perhaps .. but that would take someone competent enough and honest enough to do it.

# Anonymous @ 9.49pm

I would agree entirely with what you say.

oddball said...

I think you are after Kenny's job.If that is the case you would make a damn good Justice Minister but if you didn't stand by your words you would be fked !

Anonymous said...

The whole thing is way over my head but that video you have of MacAskill telling us the SNP Government owes the legal profession a great debt is a stinker.


Anonymous said...

Incredible story and all this is allowed to go on in Scotland ?

Sorry to say this but you have an incredibly corrupt country I never thought would be like this.

Hope you can clean it up someday !

Anonymous said...

even a parrot would be more honest than MacAskill

Anonymous said...

What you are seeing here is nothing new.The Law Society has ruled organisations,committees and discussion groups at the Executive for years.The only difference is now you write about it and in your own words it looks very crooked which it is.

Keep up the good reporting.

Anonymous said...

To the first person who commented.Well if you don't like paying for regulation don't be so bloody crooked in the past or the future!

Anonymous said...

You said in the Herald newspaper a year ago this would happen !

Anonymous said...

I dont think it will take the Law Society a year to take over this commission.
It looks like they already have taken it over.Its full of Law Society staff and the Ombudsman lot wont last there anyway now so thats it.TAKEN OVER FULL STOP !

Anonymous said...

So this is a case of Kenny MacAskill treating public sector employees like shit but making sure his luvvies from the Law Society keep their fat wages for whitewashing crooked lawyers.There will be something said about this.

Anonymous said...

Nice try Law Society but there are people watching you enough to expose your treachery.

Keep up the good work Mr Cherbi.I think you might just have saved a few people's jobs too.

Anonymous said...

Thats what happens when lawyers get involved - they get everything their own way.You said back to teh drawing board and you are dead right.
Get rid of all the lawyers and their law society staff then you will have somethign a lot more independent !

Anonymous said...

You are writing about thoroughly evil people.they will do anything to get their wishes and I wouldnt be surprised if these workers from the ombudsman will get the heave in favour of more scum from the Law Society

Anonymous said...

I am one of those staff so thanks for letting us know

Anonymous said...

The video clip of Kenny MacAskill claiming the Scottish Government owes a great debt to lawyers is disgusting.

He should have said the Scottish Government owes a great debt to the people of Scotland for electing it which now looks like a bad choice certainly in Mr MacAskill on justice.

Spartan said...

Yes I don't think I want to be ruled by Kenny McLawyer and his friends either.

He should go away and be a lawyer again because he is favouring them over the rest of us

Anonymous said...

If you want a fully independent organisation Peter there cannot be anyone in it from the past - they are all tarred with the same brush,Ombudsman and Law Society alike.

Anonymous said...

This is terrible to say the least and why cant we have an independent complaints commission against lawyers.
Why is it always prevented from happening?

Anonymous said...

It looks like what they say is true : experience writes the best.I think you should be declared some kind of Professor on corruption in the legal world !

Peter Cherbi said...

# Oddball @ 11.04pm

I have no such cravings, but I do know of someone worthy enough in the SNP to take on the job .. someone not bound and shackled to the legal profession or the Law Society ...

# Anonymous @ 11.19pm

I agree with your sentiments .. perhaps Mr MacAskill is expressing some personal debt he owes to the legal profession and is trying to make the rest of us pay for it ?

# Anonymous @ 12.39am

I agree with what you say, and sadly I doubt anytime soon the levels of corruption in Scotland we are currently experiencing will be cleaned up ... maybe never ... because where there is a will, there is a way .. for now, there is no will ..

# Anonymous @ 8.52am

Yes, quite .. and more colourful too !

# Anonymous @ 9.02am

Yes, I agree .. and time to do something about it now, all of us ?

# Anonymous @ 11.00am

Absolutely and to the point !

# Anonymous @ 12.19pm

Yes I did .. easily predictable of course .. the one constant in regulation of the legal profession is corruption.

# Anonymous @ 1.42pm

Yes, from the looks of things they have done exactly that.

# Anonymous @ 7.48pm

Remember to make the issue known if you feel strongly about it !

# Anonymous @ 8.44pm

We must all do our bit.

# Anonymous @ 1.01pm

Yes, back to the drawing board ...

# Anonymous @ 3.52pm

Yes, the plans are already in place apparently ...

# Anonymous @ 2.25pm

Can you contact me please.

# Anonymous @ 3.53pm

I agree with you completely.

# Anonymous @ 12.15pm

Yes, I agree .. and that is what I have said from the very start.

I think the Ombudsman's office should have been left as it was, and the new SLCC been entirely independent of both the Ombudsman and the Law Society.

# Anonymous @ 1.47pm

Independent regulation of lawyers is always prevented because it is not in the Law Society of Scotland's interests to allow it ... probably because a fully independent complaints body (not the half way house of the SLCC) would reveal much more corruption in the legal profession than many are prepared to admit.

# Anonymous @ 6.57pm

An experience I wouldn't wish on anyone I can assure you ...

Thanks also to everyone who emailed me on this article .. I will get back to you as I plough through the cases and your emails

Anonymous said...

There really needs to be some kind of inquiry into this slcc and why the law society has been allowed to do this takeover you write about.

Scotland the brave died a long time ago now its ruled by criminals in suits said...
man has his lung removed when it didnt need to

who the hell wants to go to scotland if you are managed by crooks like that ! and read what NHS Grampian says - it sounds like it came out of their f***ing lawyers mouth !

Anonymous said...

Well done Mr Cherbi and an excellently written story.You have exposed one of the Law Society's key aims to destroy any independence at the SLCC.You need to keep watching though because they wont stop until they get full control.

Anonymous said...

and what do the Ombudsman's staff feel about this ? They must be up in arms surely !