Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Scots consumers stuck with 'crooked' self-regulation of lawyers as England & Wales go fully independent with new Legal Ombudsman

Legal OmbudsmanScotland left behind once again as England & Wales finally go fully independent on complaints against the legal profession with new Legal Ombudsman. CONSUMERS in England & Wales who are placed in the position of having to make complaints against solicitors, barristers or others in the UK’s legal services market will, unlike their Scots counterparts, now have an opportunity to approach a fully independent regulator, the new Legal Ombudsman, which began its work today, Wednesday 6 October.

The Legal Ombudsman’s office say this is the first time people can come to an independent and impartial body to help them resolve a legal complaint. The service covers all lawyers, including solicitors, barristers, Law costs draftsmen, Legal executives, Licensed conveyancers, Notaries, Patent attorneys, Probate practitioners, Registered European lawyers, & Trademark attorneys. The Ombudsman has official powers to put things right if the service a consumer received from their lawyer was not satisfactory. The Ombudsman's office predicts it may handle more than 100,000 cases of complaint a year.

SLCC LAW SOCIETYLaw Society of Scotland & SLCC are not seen as independent by Scots consumers. The powers & independence of the new Legal Ombudsman for England & Wales are seen as a vast improvement on the so-called ‘independent’ Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, which has so far demitted most complaints back to the Law Society of Scotland for investigation. The ‘independent’ SLCC, which is now mostly viewed as being anything but independent is also now well known for being populated by former Law Society staff & several board members, who in their register of interests appear in some cases to have previously served on Law Society Committees and be locked into Scotland’s famous ‘quango circuit’, with this & other issues leading one msp dubbing the SLCC as “The Law Society’s front company”.

The Legal Ombudsman’s office for England & Wales issued a Press Release today : A Fresh Start for Resolving Legal Complaints, stating “The new Legal Ombudsman will also enhance the reputation of the profession and aims to simplify the current consumer complaints system. Consumers can have greater confidence in using legal services because they know they can access an independent body that has specific powers to help.”

adam sampsonLegal Ombudsman for England & Wales, Adam Sampson. Chief Ombudsman, Adam Sampson said: “We know that most of the time, lawyers provide a good service. But sometimes things can go wrong. When they do, people must have access to someone they can have confidence in to put things right. That is our job – to resolve complaints quickly and fairly. We have worked hard to make sure we bring a fresh approach to legal complaints with a focus on justice.”

He continued : “We also want to work closely with lawyers and their regulators to raise standards. We want to help prevent complaints and make the legal and justice systems work better”.

jonathan djanoglyJonathan Djanogly MP Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Jonathan Djanogly MP, Minister responsible for Legal Services commented: “The new Legal Ombudsman will make a real difference for people who want to make a complaint about their lawyer. The consumer will have a single point of contact, instead of the current confusing situation, and the process will be a smoother one for the legal profession.”

The Minister continued : “As a lawyer myself I fully understand the vital part this will play in the regulatory system that helps maintain the high standing that our lawyers have around the world.”

Peter Vicary SmithWhich? Chief Executive Peter Vicary-Smith. Peter Vicary-Smith, CEO Which? said: “The arrival of the Legal Ombudsman is a welcome step forward for consumers who use legal services. It is hugely important for consumers to have the opportunity to contact an independent 'referee' who looks at both sides of the argument, makes enquiries, asks questions and comes up with a remedy or solution that they believe is fair.

By law, the Legal Ombudsman (for England & Wales) is a free service for consumers. It is funded by a levy on the legal profession but with Government controls in place to ensure it is independent and free from influence when it comes to resolving complaints. There is no cost to the taxpayer. A range of publications to help consumers and lawyers can be found here: http://www.legalombudsman.org.uk/publications – also worth a read to consumers in Scotland, to evaluate what you are missing out on …

In a BBC News report, Martyn Hocking, editor of Which?, said the Legal Ombudsman should have more powers, saying : "The Legal Ombudsman has a cap on the amount of compensation it can force solicitors to pay back of £30,000. It's questionable whether that is high enough."

He also called on the Ombudsman to "name and shame" by publishing complaints data, as the Financial Ombudsman has recently started doing after years of lobbying.

Mr Hocking said: "The Legal Ombudsman needs to be able to collate that data and definitely needs to be able to name and shame."

Unlike Scotland, where complaints against the legal profession appear to rank higher in the secrecy stakes than national security, the motives of which are clearly to protect solicitors & law firms business from the possibility they may lose business as clients get to know their solicitors shocking complaints records, there are now moves afoot in England & Wales to ensure complaints & complaints decisions are published.

The Legal Ombudsman has launched a consultation on publicising complaints decisions, stating : “The Legal Services Act gives the Legal Ombudsman the power to publish reports of our investigations and decisions. We have put out a discussion paper to help us consider what sort of information we will publish. We would particularly like to hear views on whether or not we should identify lawyers and firms when publishing the outcomes of investigations.”

You can download the Discussion paper (September 2009) (pdf) on the consultation and take part, sharing your views on this important topic. The deadline for responses to the discussion paper is 23 December 2010. Please write/email to consultations@legalombudsman.org.uk

Even though many of my readers are based in Scotland, I would urge you all to take part in this consultation, offering your views on why complaints against the legal profession should be published. I have reported on this issue in earlier articles, such as HERE

The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission were asked earlier in the summer to comment on the publication of complaints in England & Wales, and whether the SLCC consider Scots consumers would benefit from the same entitlements? A spokeswoman replied : “The points you have raised are very interesting, but the SLCC has no comment to make on this particular issue at this time.”

Now that Scotland’s anti-consumer legal complaints system has been firmly left behind in the dark ages by the move in England & Wales to a more transparent independent legal services regulator, questions must now be asked why Scots must suffer the well known anti-client culture of complaints handling at the Law Society of Scotland, Faculty of Advocates & SLCC.

Readers should bear in mind the new Legal Ombudsman for England & Wales was created through the Legal Services Act 2007, the equivalent act for Scotland, the Legal Services Bill being debated today in the Scottish Parliament, which the current Scottish Government have resisted including the same full independent regulation of legal services as is now the case in England & Wales.

Why therefore must Scots consumers suffer more of lawyers regulating themselves and covering up for each other when the remainder of the UK has fully independent regulation of their legal profession ?

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Not surprised we are left out as per usual although it is a disgrace of course!

Anonymous said...

In areas where law is the same in Scotland & England, the Scottish people should use English law firms. Would this work if the corruption happened in Scotland. I doubt it. The Scottish Parliament is a disgrace.

We still cannot trust Scottish Lawyers, all Penman's the law society is in control of all legal Policymaking, criminals all of them.

Anonymous said...

Scottish Politicians all crooked bastards.

Anonymous said...

What a difference a border makes ?

Anonymous said...

Easy answer to your final question Peter.
Scotland has to be kept self regulating for lawyers because they are all a bloody bunch of crooks.I know this very well myself as my father had a battle with the Law Society over his own solicitor trying to con him out of an investment Law Society did nothing as you might expect neither did the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman another waste of time.

Anonymous said...

The Legal Ombudsman's website reads very well compared with the SLCC's rubbish

Anonymous said...

If we didnt have Holyrood we proably would have had this by now so it proves lawyers run the policitians

Peter Cherbi said...

# Anonymous @ 16:16

Yes ... more campaigning is needed to make the issue of fully independent regulation of legal services top billing in Scotland ...

# Anonymous @ 16:36

I agree ... and given the probability clients are more likely to get ripped off by their solicitors in Scotland than the rest of the UK ... I'd also advise Scots to use English law firms if at all possible ... after all, at least they would be able to rely on a more independent stronger form of regulation than the hapless SLCC will ever be able to provide ...

# Anonymous @ 17:06

Yes I agree ... and if you ever want to publicise your father's case ...

# Anonymous @ 18:25

I agree ...

Anonymous said...

Careful Peter you might give some people ideas about independence against lawyers not allowed in Scotland!

Anonymous said...

I dont think the Law Society will ever allow independent regulation of solicitors in Scotland and that useless parliament is too cowardly or bent to make it happen

Anonymous said...

I agree we should know how many and what type of complaints have been made about solicitors in Scotland.

Anonymous said...

“The new Legal Ombudsman will also enhance the reputation of the profession and aims to simplify the current consumer complaints system. Consumers can have greater confidence in using legal services because they know they can access an independent body that has specific powers to help.”

Something Jane Irvine's beloved SLCC has never claimed it will do!

How do we get to use English lawyers ? and fast !

Anonymous said...

6 October 2010 Last updated at 18:36
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'Tesco law' approved by Holyrood
Tesco The reforms will allow banks and supermarkets to own law firms

New legislation allowing banks and supermarkets to own law firms has been passed by MSPs.

The Scottish government brought forward its Legal Services Bill, saying the profession needed an overhaul.

The key reform allows lawyers to form partnerships with non-lawyers and had prompted claims it could see the creation of "Tesco Law".

The bill also brings in a new regulatory framework for the legal profession.

It will see the Scottish government appoint approved regulators for the new business structures.

And despite earlier concerns, the Law Society of Scotland gave its support to the bill.

Consumer Focus Scotland argued the legislation would lead to a more open, innovative and competitive legal services sector.

The legislation will also allow advice agencies to employ solicitors directly.

Legal services in Scotland are mainly provided by solicitors and advocates, of which there are about 10,500 in total.
================================
trust none of them

Anonymous said...

Wow what a bunch of legal crooks keeping this out of Scotland!

Anonymous said...

I understand the new Ombudsman described the previous Law Society regulatory setups as 'bewildering and very inefficient'...deliberate error or accident I wonder?

Those with complaints have a year to lodge them and rip-off merchants will named - just don't expect them to be ashamed.

More at;

http://www.talktalk.co.uk/money/guardian/news/2010/10/3/got-a-legal-complaint-now-you-can-take-it-to-the-new-legal-ombudsman.html

Anonymous said...

Peter Cherbi said...

more campaigning is needed to make the issue of fully independent regulation of legal services top billing in Scotland ...
===================================
Correct Peter but look at progress so far, lawyers are trusted less and less, biased Scottish Politicians or weak Politicians exposed , Mill's Resignation, Scottish legal Complaints commission a Law Society front, insurance arrangements exposed, of Marsh RSA, a system so rotten it cannot remain in it's present form.

Anonymous said...

If its good enough for England & Wales the same should be applied in Scotland and that awful SLCC scrapped.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure the SLCC will be jumping up and down trying to claim they are as independent as the new Legal ombudsman for England but we all know what the SLCC really are - a Law Society cheap knock off.

Anonymous said...

then there's the question of who would head such an independent complaints ombudsman if it ever was allowed to exist because by the sounds of it there is no one in Scotland independent enough to be trusted!

Anonymous said...

Now that England & Wales have independent regulation Scotland will have to fall in line sooner or later.

Keep hammering away at the differences in rights of people and something is bound to happen!

Anonymous said...

Complaining to groups of lawyers about lawyers will always result in a cover up. You can all be sure there are no honest lawyers in Scotland.

Anonymous said...

Too early to tell if this Legal Ombudsman will be any good.I trust you will keep an eager eye on it and compare what it does to the SLCC.

Anyway keep up the good work Mr Cherbi.You have a very good way of getting to the heart of the issue in your postings along with providing us lots of detail.

Anonymous said...

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-11559750

I wonder what punishment they give for crooked lawyers!

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