Friday, March 04, 2011

Name & Shame : Complaints data on law firms to be published in England & Wales, Scots solicitors complaints history to remain secret, for now

Legal OmbudsmanThe Legal Ombudsman for England & Wales will publish complaints data against law firms. LAWYERS & LAW FIRMS which regularly provide poor service to consumers in England & Wales will be identified by the Legal Ombudsman (LeO) in moves announced recently by the independent regulator of legal services in England & Wales after a consultation was held on the merits of publishing information on complaints made by clients against law firms & solicitors south of the border.

The move by the independent Legal Ombudsman for England & Wales is in marked contrast to Scotland where the Law Society of Scotland, Scottish Legal Complaints Commission & Faculty of Advocates all currently refuse to publish complaints data naming law firms & the many solicitor ‘serial offenders’ or ‘crooked lawyers’ in Scotland’s legal profession.

The intention in England & Wales to publish complaints findings & name law firms involved, a term more familiar to many as ‘naming & shaming’ has been welcomed by consumers & campaign groups south of the border.

A media release (pdf) from the Legal Ombudsman stated : Statistics and anonymised case summaries are to be available on the Ombudsman’s website with immediate effect. From June 2011 the service will also be publishing Ombudsman summaries giving detail on the area of law, the type of lawyer and the outcome of the case including the remedy.

This decision follows research the service commissioned, with the Legal Services Consumer Panel, to establish what consumers and high street lawyers consider to be the best way for the Ombudsman to publish its decisions.

The service is also considering hw it might use named data. A consultation workshop with representatives from the legal profession and consumer bodies will help the ombudsman to decide whether to adopt a policy of naming law firms. A decision on this is expected by the end of this year.

Alan Sampson, the Chief Ombudsman, speaking on the issue said : “It is important that we give a comprehensive and fair picture of all the cases that are resolved of formally and informally resolved cases including those where lawyers have provided a good service”

Dianne Hayter, chair of the Legal Services Board Consumer Panel welcomed the decision to publish complaints data, and also expressed her belief the findings from the published research (pdf) will give the Legal Ombudsman “the final piece of evidence” required to name law firms which regularly provided poor service.

A media release (pdf) from the Legal Services Board Consumer Panel quotes Ms Hayter, who said : "This research gives the Legal Ombudsman the final piece of evidence it needs to name those law firms who regularly provide poor service. People depend on lawyers in critical life moments – hiding the identities of the few repeat offenders unfairly puts consumers at risk of harm.”

“Consumers’ insistence on a fair publication scheme should give everyone confidence that complaints data would be used sensibly and lawyers would not be unfairly penalised as some in the profession claim.”

“People’s reluctance to complain about lawyers is worrying and shows the need for effective signposting to the Legal Ombudsman. Naming law firms would show consumers that an impartial body is there to act on their problem, giving them the added confidence boost they need to speak out.”

However, and perhaps in an indication of how Scottish solicitors may resist any similar moves to publish complaints information against crooked lawyers in Scotland, the research commissioned on how solicitors felt about complaints being published (pdf) revealed in its conclusion that solicitors were generally hostile toward the Legal Ombudsman’s plan to publish consumer complaints, with the majority of solicitors against the decision to make complaints information available to the public. Publishing complaints information was a new concept for solicitors to consider. Therefore making information accessible to the public was not viewed as automatic or expected; instead it was viewed with scepticism and caution.

In a revealing finding, the research report concluded “Solicitors were concerned about losing control of the complaints made against them. Most solicitors spoke of ‘problem’ clients and they feared that the Legal Ombudsman’s decision to publish complaints information might add to the perceived power of these difficult clients.”

The report also suggested solicitors wanted to ‘stage manage’ the complaints information which would eventually be published : “In addition to mitigating the power of the consumer, solicitors wanted reassurance that complaints information would be presented in an impartial manner and that each case would not be open to interpretation. It was therefore important to protect the reputation of the solicitor or the firm from the media and/or investigation from local interested parties.”

SLCCThe Scottish Legal Complaints Commission has done nothing in three years to publish complaints details against lawyers in Scotland. In stark contrast to the open debate & moves in England & Wales to naming & shame poorly performing law firms by the Legal Ombudsman, there is no similar debate or current intention here in Scotland by the notoriously anti-consumer Scottish Legal Complaints Commission to publish any complaints investigations or data which may name & shame some of Scotland’s worst (or most crooked) lawyers.

The lack of action by the SLCC in the area of publicly identifying the many serial offender solicitors of Scotland's legal profession who consistently damage their clients interests, will deprive Scots consumers from being able to make an informed, safe choice on which law firm or solicitor should represent their legal interests.

A consumer official speaking to Diary of Injustice yesterday said Scots are clearly being left at a disadvantage over their choice of legal representatives.

He branded the current lack of information on Scottish law firms complaints records as “appalling” and alleged Scots consumers are “regularly playing Russian roulette with their choice of lawyer because consumers in Scotland have no access to information on law firm’s complaints histories or records of service.”

A client who is waiting on his complaint being investigated by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission described the legal profession's complaints process in Scotland as being “rigged in favour of solicitors”.

The client, who wishes to remain anonymous said he recently found out from a friend who lives in the same town, the solicitor he has complained about, is the subject of further complaints from another client who has provided evdence showing the solicitor misused land titles.

He went onto say : “Had I known of my solicitor’s record I would never have used him. It is time the dirty history of solicitors complaints files are opened up to expose these people and let clients see exactly who they are employing as their solicitors.”

Another individual who has contacted Diary of Injustice with an account of poor, possibly negligent service from an Edinburgh based law firm and has been treated poorly by the Law Society over his complaint, said : “Would anyone in their right mind go to a solicitor who has ten, twenty or thirty complaints against them and nothing has been done by the Law Society or the SLCC ?"

He continued : "Its time this complaints information is made public so people can see if a lawyer is honest enough to be trusted with handling their legal work. The only way to do this is to make it possible to see what kinds of complaints have been made about lawyers and how they have been handed by the regulators.”

Clearly if a database of complaints investigations and findings existed, along with the identities of law firms & solicitors involved, consumers would be better placed to make a safer choice of which law firm or solicitor will represent their legal interests.

An independently supervised ebay style client ratings system, as some readers have suggested would also be a welcome service to enable consumers to choose which law firm they could safely approach for quality legal services, as opposed to the current set-up, where any client of a solicitor in Scotland does not currently know how many complaints their solicitor has accumulated from other clients or if they have criminal convictions, or if they have been reprimanded, disciplined or punished in some way by their own professional body, the Law Society of Scotland.

A legal insider speaking to Diary of Injustice this afternoon said efforts to implement the naming & shaming policy in Scotland will be severely resisted by the legal profession. He said : “The Law Society of Scotland will halt any similar moves to publish the complaints records of Scottish solicitors by using any means necessary”.

The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission were asked for comment on whether they may follow the lead of England & Wales and publish similar complaints data on Scottish law firms. No comment was received at time of publication.

Scottish consumers are now clearly at a disadvantage compared with their English counterparts in being able to choose for themselves safe, dependable & independently regulated legal services provided by the solicitor or law firm of their own choice. It is clearly time for a much wider reform of regulation of the legal profession in Scotland to bring us into line with the rest of the UK.

Background to the decision to publish complaints data in England & Wales :

The Legal Services Consumer Panel was established under the Legal Services Act 2007 to provide independent advice to the Legal Services Board about the interests of consumers of legal services in England and Wales. The LSB investigate issues that affect consumers and use this information to influence decisions about the regulation of legal services.

It should be noted there is no organisation equivalent to the Legal Services Board Consumer Panel in Scotland, as the Law Society of Scotland is currently mandated under the Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980 to represent both the legal profession and the public’s interest in legal services.

The conflicting interests of the Law Society of Scotland to represent both solicitors and clients, is a feature I have recently reported on, together with a public petition filed at the Scottish Parliament asking for the 1980 Act to be repealed, here : Calls for Scottish Parliament to debate future of Law Society as lawyer admits people of Scotland deserve independent regulator of legal services

The Legal Ombudsman and the Legal Services Consumer Panel jointly commissioned qualitative research with consumers, which was conducted by Acute Insight Market Research during November-December 2010. There were a series of ten mini-group discussions, involving 58 consumers. The independent research report is available on the Panel’s website: Identifying Law Firms Subject to Consumer Complaints Research Report (pdf)

The Panel’s full response to the consultation can be found on its website: Legal Ombudsman: Publishing our decisions (pdf)

The Legal Ombudsman’s discussion paper on publishing decisions can be found on their website: Discussion Paper : Publishing our Decisions (pdf)

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good idea I hope it catches on in Scotland !

Anonymous said...

In a revealing finding, the research report concluded “Solicitors were concerned about losing control of the complaints made against them. Most solicitors spoke of ‘problem’ clients and they feared that the Legal Ombudsman’s decision to publish complaints information might add to the perceived power of these difficult clients.”

Problem clients ?

What about problem solicitors and their own power ?

and just why do solicitors feel they have the right to control complaints made against them ?

You are correct Peter it is time for a big change in the legal world and complaints made fully independent

Anonymous said...

I recall you suggested this a long time ago.Only now are these ombudsmen starting to catch up with reality.

Keep up the good work Peter

Anonymous said...

Any client should be entitled to know if their lawyer has a criminal record.For the sake of argument what if a lawyer has been charged with or served time for a sex offence ?
There are plenty lawyers still working who seem to be in this category !

Anonymous said...

My opinion of solicitors in Scotland is now so low I regard every one of them corrupt.The ones who are honest can prove me wrong by seeing to it the same type of information the English can now see about their own law firms is published in Scotland.
I CANT SEE IT EVER HAPPENING WITH THE LAW SOCIETY IN CHARGE!

Anonymous said...

self regulation is another word for corruption

hide all the dirty washing and sweep complaints under the carpet

Anonymous said...

It seems the Legal Ombudsman is far more open and capable than the SLCC thus proving the usual "Scottish solution" to all things which is rammed down our throats by the SNP is a piece of B****CKS as the Chief Executive of the Scottish Legal Aid Board would probably say http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/scotland/Legal-aid-boss-in-bs.6728156.jp

Anonymous said...

Good idea and it would be another good idea to bring this in for all professions not just lawyers!

Anonymous said...

I think the English have been reading this blog & stealing our Peter's ideas!
Seriously why has the SLCC not followed suit?
Now they look like the Law Society (a bunch of crooks protecting their own)

Anonymous said...

It all sounds a bit half hearted to me and not the names list along with their complaints I'd expect to see.Sampson says he will take a decision on putting up the names by the end of the year.

Why the wait ?

Action speaks louder than words !

Anonymous said...

The SLCC's continuing silence on this matter, now extending to some three years, is disgraceful.

There is clearly one law for some and another miserable excuse for the same in Scotland and yet no investigation the OFT which is clearly not fit for purpose.

Anonymous said...

A legal insider speaking to Diary of Injustice this afternoon said efforts to implement the naming & shaming policy in Scotland will be severely resisted by the legal profession. He said : “The Law Society of Scotland will halt any similar moves to publish the complaints records of Scottish solicitors by using any means necessary”.

The Law Society has too much power like some of those dictators around the world currently being toppled

Anonymous said...

The move by the independent Legal Ombudsman for England & Wales is in marked contrast to Scotland where the Law Society of Scotland, Scottish Legal Complaints Commission & Faculty of Advocates all currently refuse to publish complaints data naming law firms & the many solicitor ‘serial offenders’ or ‘crooked lawyers’ in Scotland’s legal profession.


Too much to hide.

Anonymous said...

Yes "problem clients" indeed.
I suspect there are many more problem solicitors who keep getting away with complaints more than there are problem clients!

Anonymous said...

Jane Irvine and her SLCC are obviously against publishing complaints otherwise it would have happened already.

Crooks gain more by secrecy right ?

Anonymous said...

Plenty law firms will be worried about this because plenty of them are crooked one way or another and now you've revealed the English are doing it the Law Society will have to get one of its friendly news outlets to run a pre-recorded story about how bad it would be for Scottish consumers to ask about a lawyer's complaints history!
Some Edinburgh centric news outlet perhaps ?

Anonymous said...

I agree - anyone thinking of using a lawyer should be able to see their complaints history first otherwise we all know what will happen next - client employs lawyer (with unknown 40 complaints) lawyer then rips off client and gets away with it

The public have a right to avoid using scum who hide behind the Law Society etc

Anonymous said...

Shhh Peter you are putting dangerous ideas into the minds of solicitors clients
Now they will all be asking to see how many complaints the rotten scoundrels have swept under the carpet !

Keep up the good work !

Anonymous said...

Complaints data not published in Scotland, what they are saying is YOU CLIENTS SHOULD NEVER TRUST US.

Good advice, all lawyers are bastards, assume they are all rotten because this is the reality.

When any profession investigates its own membership, injustice is the inevitable result.

Great blog Peter, they always carry on their crookery until they meet the client that says no.

Whether you lawyers like this fact or not Penman has buggered all of you. Who do we trust? How do we know if any of you are honest?

I would not be surprised if law students get away with plagarism, you need to start training crooks somewhere.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

My opinion of solicitors in Scotland is now so low I regard every one of them corrupt.(WELL SAID) The ones who are honest can prove me wrong by seeing to it the same type of information the English can now see about their own law firms is published in Scotland.
I CANT SEE IT EVER HAPPENING WITH THE LAW SOCIETY IN CHARGE!
=================================
TO BE HONEST THE LAW SOCIETY ARE IN CHARGE OF POLICY BUT NOT TOTALLY. THEY CANNOT STOP THE DISSIDENTS (THEY WOULD LOVE TO) BUT THE LORNA JACKS, PHILLIP YELLANDS AND DOUGLAS MILLS WOULD WANT PROSECUTIONS IN THEY WERE IN PETER'S SHOES AND THEY WOULD BE RIGHT. BUT THEY DO NOT WANT TO SEE IT AS THEY ARE NOT VICTIMS.

SELF REGULATION CREATES A MENTAL ATTITUDE THAT ONLY LAWYERS ARE IMPORTANT. THAT IS WHY TRUST IN THE PROFESSION IS DIMINISHING DAILY.

LAWYERS MSP's YES LAWYERS POLITICIANS NOT OURS CONTROL POLICY. THAT IS WHY DISSENT MUST NEVER END.

INFINITE VIGILENCE MUST BE THE CLIENTS MEANS OF REGULATION, BECAUSE THESE BASTARDS COVER UP FOR EACH OTHER DAILY AND THE LAW SOCIETY AND SLCC WILL BE DESTROYING DOCUMENTS EVERY DAY.

IN MY VIEW THE MSP's ARE WORSE THAN LAWYERS BECAUSE THEY SUPPORT THEM.

Anonymous said...

All you people out there, trust no lawyer, the latter are human vermin who prey on clients to make money. Justice does not come into the equation. Law Society justice is injustice for you.

Think of it this way, imagine writing to your MP to raise the issue of MP's expenses five or ten years ago to end self regulation. To quote the political theorist Bruno Latour, "elected representatives are your spokespersons". But do they want to vote against their own self interests. No of course not. That is why it took a leak to the press to expose the corruption at Westminster.

Your MSP's are the same, they as far as civil legal matters are concerned are spokespersons for the Law Society, that is why they support self regulation and destroyed the LPLA bill. They speak through their killing off of Mr Burns petition to end self regulation. Speech is not just talking, as Latour states, remember the saying "action speaks louder than words".

Self regulation and democracy are mutually exclusive. Power must be met by power or slavery is the result. If you go to a lawyer you risk becoming a legal slave because just as your MPs at Westminster look after themselves,
so do lawyers. That is the reason why a biased Mr Douglas Mill resigned as Law Society President. Lawyers for you Mr Mill are important, clients are not. No business can grow forever on a model of corruption. Self regulation is that model.

Dissident websites have been born because self regulation does not work. Trust no lawyer.

We clients are tenacious, I am getting the words "Trust no lawyer" on my gravestone. At present day prices it will cost £26.00. If one person learns form it, I will have value for money.

Anonymous said...

Fair point I for one would like to know if my lawyer or their firm has a bad record on complaints

Anonymous said...

THE LAW SOCIETY, SSDT, SLCC FACULTY OF ADVICAOES, ALL BLIND TO JUSTICE.

Anonymous said...

“Had I known of my solicitor’s record I would never have used him.

MacAskill thinks screw the public, protect the lawyers. He cares not one jot what we have suffered, his precious legal colleagues are all that matters to him.

That scoundrel Lord Hamilton, answerable to himself, where do legal despots fit into democratic ways of structuring society?

You are just a man Hamilton, nothing else. Why should it be impossible to take legal action against you is you are corrupt?

The legal system is a profitable club, nothing to do with justice.

Anonymous said...

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has made a startling admission on the negative policy of long enforced 'adversarial' complaints practices operated by the Law Society of Scotland, which are widely thought to have saved many solicitors with poor regulatory records from client complaints over many years.

The Justice Secretary's insight into the way complaints have been poorly handled against lawyers by the Law Society is crucial in that Mr MacAskill now recognises and agrees with his Ministerial colleague John Swinney's constituent, Mr Stewart MacKenzie, that the current 'adversarial' approach of self regulatory complaints handling by the legal profession is widely prejudicial against clients, and not in the public interest.

BUT MR MACASKILL HAS TAKEN NO ACTION AGAINST THE SCOTTISH LEGAL COMPLAINTS COMMISSION, BECAUSE HE WANTS LAWYERS PROTECTED. WHAT IS THE WORD MACASKILL "SPIN" THE ABOVE IS WHAT YOU SAID AND IS BULL AS EVENTS HAVE PROVED. RESIGN YOU SCOUNDREL.

Anonymous said...

My opinion of solicitors in Scotland is now so low I regard every one of them corrupt.

Yes Burke and Hare stole corpses from graves, these lawyer bastards send make corpses by sending clients to their graves.

The Burke and Hare incident NO DOCTORS WERE PROSECUTED.

These professions are the ultimate human filth.

Anonymous said...

http://latestnews.virginmedia.com/news/uk/2011/03/07/reforms_turn_back_nhs_to_1930s


Plans to reform the NHS could return healthcare provision to the days of the 1930s and 40s, one of Britain's leading doctors has warned.

Dr Mark Porter, chairman of the British Medical Association's hospital consultants committee, criticised health secretary Andrew Lansley's plan to make NHS hospitals compete with private companies.

Opening NHS care in England to "any willing provider" could result in the closure of local hospitals and see some patients denied care by private providers because they are expensive to treat, he said.

The Health and Social Care Bill, currently going through parliament, will see £80 billion of the NHS budget handed to GPs, enabling them to commission services.

Dr Porter told the Guardian newspaper: "Very deliberately the Government wishes to turn back the clock to the 1930s and 1940s, when there were private, charitable and co-operative providers.
=================================
TONY BENN ON MICHAEL MOORE'S "SICKO" DVD SAID "DISMANTLING THE NHS WOULD CAUSE A REVOLUTION".

CLEGG AND CAMERON ARE COMMITTING POLITICAL SUICIDE.

CLEGG HAS KILLED THE LIBERAL DEMOCRATS.

Anonymous said...

Why I wonder is this blog the only place to find reliable and up to date news on Scotland's deplorable 'justice' system?

Excellent work.

Anonymous said...

A solicitor I know has been charged with a serious assault against a woman which happened last summer there are 3 witnesses yet nothing in court.He is still working but I doubt his clients know anything about it

Peter Cherbi said...

Thanks for all your comments & emails on this article.

Two comments regarding a case in Fife have not been published due to the details of the case. If the author could contact me via scottishlawreporters@gmail.com I will see the information is passed to a newspaper as requested.

I would urge those of you who campaign against self regulation of the legal profession to spread the word on the publishing of complaints against law firms & solicitors ... the research contained in the article which has led to the LeO's announcement should be publicised as much as possible to stimulate debate on this issue in Scotland.

Anonymous @ 7 March 2011 11:44

If you would like to contact me with further details of the case I will see the case is given a wider airing in the media when appropriate to do so ...

Anonymous said...

"I would urge those of you who campaign against self regulation of the legal profession to spread the word on the publishing of complaints against law firms & solicitors ... the research contained in the article which has led to the LeO's announcement should be publicised as much as possible to stimulate debate on this issue in Scotland."

I fully intend to !

Thanks for keeping informed of what's happening in England.Now its plain to see we are being left behind in Scotland on justice matters!

Anonymous said...

I am eager to see your suggestions on publishing complaints about lawyers made reality as quickly as possible Mr Cherbi.
Very good work!

Anonymous said...

I also agree with this idea.

People spend thousands with their lawyers so they have a right to know exactly who they are dealing with.If they are crooks or are full of complaints the clients must have the right to know it.

Anonymous said...

I have a feeling the Legal Ombudsman has been reading your blog and taking your ideas!

As I said in your latest posting we need this same naming & shaming in Scotland to sort out the crooked from the honest lawyers.