Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Scots consumers to remain ‘in the dark’ over crooked lawyers complaints histories while English Legal Ombudsman publishes complaint data

Legal Ombudsman The Legal Ombudsman move ahead with publication of complaints about the legal profession in England & Wales. SCOTS CONSUMERS officially now face a clear disadvantage in being able to choose a safe or trustworthy Scottish solicitor or law firm to represent their legal interests, after the Legal Ombudsman (LeO) for England & Wales began publishing preliminary details of complaints brought to its attention by clients who felt they had a raw deal from their legal representatives.

While the Law Society of Scotland & Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) both appear intent on protecting the long term confidentiality & secrecy of the Scottish legal profession’s complaints data, thus ensuring Scottish consumers will not be able to find out their solicitors complaints histories, the move by the Legal Ombudsman south of the border is being seen as an important gesture towards increasing consumer knowledge of common failings of the legal profession typical of many complaints as well as encouraging a shake up in the quality of legal services on offer to the public south of the border.

The policy of publishing complaints data in England & Wales is ultimately intended to lead to actual naming & shaming of rogue law firms & solicitors who persistently provide poor services to consumers, an issue I reported on earlier in the month, here : Name & Shame : Complaints data on law firms to be published in England & Wales, Scots solicitors complaints history to remain secret, for now.

What Scots consumers wont see for a long time yet : Details published for the first time on the Legal Ombudsman’s website of common types of complaints or issues arising from difficult dealings with solicitors in England & Wales give examples such as :

On The Case with the Legal Ombudsman

Court out by costs :

We've made our first Ombudsman decision here at the Legal Ombudsman. Let's have a look at the case...

The complainant, Ms X, was about to buy two properties in Europe when she discovered that the developers hadn't built the homes to the required specification. She decided it was time to involve a lawyer and found one who was based overseas but regulated in the UK.

Given a costs estimate at the start, with one amount for initial advice and negotiations, and an additional figure if the case went to court, Ms X engaged the lawyer's services.

When negotiations broke down with the vendors, Ms X was told that the court costs would be £2,500 more than she was originally advised. When she asked why, her lawyer told her that her case had generated more correspondence than usual. He explained that as that was likely to continue, the price had to rise.

Ms X hasn't decided whether to pursue the matter in court, but has chosen to complain about the service her lawyer provided. She explained that she wouldn't have employed him if she'd known the price would increase. Dissatisfied with his response to her complaint, Ms X turned to us for help to resolve it. She added that as well as the increase in costs for taking the case to court, she was also unhappy with the price charged for the work already carried out.

Our view was that the work originally agreed had been completed without unnecessary delay and the firm had acted reasonably. However, we also concluded that there could have been a better explanation of the court costs and how these could change over time.

Ms X wasn't satisfied with the recommendation we made. She wanted more money back from her lawyer and asked us to refer the case for an Ombudsman's decision. So that's what we did.

The result was that our Ombudsman agreed with the recommendation originally made. We decided that the lawyer should pay Ms X £150 in recognition of the inconvenience caused by this inadequate costs information. The lawyer agreed to this and has assured us that the firm had started to issue client care letters as a result of our involvement.

Case one: home sweet home? :

Mr and Mrs A bought their house in 2005 - or so they thought. When they came to sell last year, they discovered that they didn't actually own their home. The solicitor for the people who wanted to buy the house discovered that Mr and Mrs A's names had never been transferred to the Land Registry documents. On the face of it, this looks like a serious oversight by the solicitor who managed the original purchase on their behalf.

Mr and Mrs A were not able to sort things out with their solicitor and so complained to us.

Case two: money matters :

Ms B is divorced now but has been left feeling dissatisfied with the service her lawyer provided at the time of the divorce. She had asked that the decree absolute should not be signed until all outstanding financial matters with her husband had been resolved. She realised that if it was signed before then, she'd be left in a sticky financial situation. When she was asked to sign the document herself, she did so believing her lawyer had followed her wishes. Unfortunately, as it turned out, a number of money matters had not been dealt with beforehand, as she had asked. So she is feeling let down by her lawyer and unhappy that they hadn't made this clear.

Case three: where there's a will... :

Mr C is the executor of his mum's estate. The lawyer acting on his behalf had the task of selling his mother's house and closing her two bank accounts. Mr C is also a beneficiary, so once these things are done, he will receive some money from the estate. A year down the line, and the lawyer has done nothing.. And Mr C hasn't heard from him for two months, despite chasing him on several occasions.

Mr C hasn't been able to resolve things with the lawyer himself and so brought his complaint to us.

Case four: just the job :

Ms D was sacked from her job, but had the right to appeal against the decision. So she instructed a lawyer to act on her behalf, but they missed the deadlines required for her case to be heard in court. This meant she couldn't go ahead with her appeal at all. She complains that she's been let down by the person she employed to help her.

Case five: a clean break :

Mr E contacted us to complain about the lawyer who had been dealing with his elderly mother's case. She'd fallen badly and damaged her ankle while out shopping. The 'no win, no fee' solicitor involved has taken three years to conclude that the case is not worth pursuing. Mr E believes that this timescale is unacceptable and has left his mother very distressed. She was under the impression that the case was nearing conclusion. Had she been told about this sooner, we were told, she would have employed another lawyer to deal with her case.

Case six: rising damp :

Mr F bought a property in London six years ago, knowing that there were problems with damp. He asked his solicitor at the time to make it a condition of sale that the damp would be fixed. His solicitor said it was all fine and so Mr F went ahead with the purchase. When he came to sell, however, a survey carried out for a potential buyer found the problem was still there. It seems that the work had not been done after all. Now Mr F wants to sell up and is insisting that his solicitor pays to sort out the damp and refund the fees that have already been paid to him.

Case seven: lost in transition :

Ms G's family has used the same solicitor for generations, looking after the deeds to her house and her will. She contacted the firm a couple of weeks ago as she wanted to make some changes to her will, only to be told that the documents had been lost. The original firm has merged with another one and now nobody at the new place is accepting responsibility for the loss.

As a result, Mrs G brought her complaint to us.

Case eight: stop rambling :

Mr and Mrs H are finding it hard to sell their home. They bought the house 10 years ago, but they say their solicitor failed to tell them about the public right of way that runs across the back of the house. This is putting potential buyers off. Mr and Mrs H say they wouldn't have bought the house, or would have paid less, if they'd known that people had the right to walk through their garden. They didn't know anything about this until they put their house on the market.

Their solicitor says he made the situation clear to them at the time, but the couple have brought their complaint to us.

Case nine: page turner :

Mr I is in prison. He has been asking his solicitor to forward a few items of personal property for the past two months, but has heard nothing back. These things are really important to Mr I – religious books that he needs to have with him while he's in prison. All he wants is his belongings to be sent to him as soon as possible.

He has complained to us that something so straightforward really shouldn't take so long.

Case ten: the French connection :

A complainant from France, who dealt with an English lawyer, bought a 1940s property. She decided to make some improvements to her new home, including changing all of the windows. She then received a letter from the local council telling her the property was listed and she'd need to put it back to its original condition. She's annoyed because her lawyer had failed to mention the fact she was buying a listed building, and she's now faced with the costs of putting the matter right.

Case eleven: trouble and strife :

One very distressed caller wants to complain about the solicitor who has been dealing with her acrimonious divorce. As part of the settlement, the marital home had to be sold. Her solicitor told her that she must be present with her husband when the valuation was carried out. She told him that she didn't want to do this, explaining that there had been domestic violence in the relationship and she wouldn't feel comfortable. Despite her protests, she told us he convinced her that she had to be there. The solicitor joined her for the valuation and her husband also turned up ... with his new girlfriend. The trouble that followed meant the police had to be called and the complainant has told us she has been under a great deal of stress ever since. She wants action taken against her solicitor for the distress caused.

Case twelve: first case closed! :

A caller wants to complain about the lawyer dealing with his tribunal. The lawyer had taken it upon himself to adjourn the case on four separate occasions - without letting his client know. The latest hearing was scheduled for 29 October, and the lawyer wanted to delay that hearing until December. This was an adjournment too far for our caller, who told the lawyer he wanted his file back and money returned. He heard nothing back following his request. We called the solicitor involved and upon hearing that the Legal Ombudsman was involved, the lawyer agreed to return his client's file and any money owed within the next three days.

While the complaints data now published by the LeO does not yet name actual solicitors or law firms, it is envisaged this will come sooner rather than later. The information will certainly carry much more weight in the public’s eyes if actual solicitors & law firms are identified, thus helping to avoid consumers hiring the same ‘crooked lawyers’ who have maligned other clients.

SLCC LAW SOCIETYLaw Society & SLCC much more anti-consumer than England’s LeO.In Scotland, the Law Society of Scotland, Scottish Legal Complaints Commission & Faculty of Advocates all refuse to publish complaints data naming law firms & the many solicitor ‘serial offenders’ or ‘crooked lawyers’ in Scotland’s legal profession. Currently, Scots consumers can only find out if a lawyer has had any findings made against them by visiting the consumer unfriendly Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal website, where details of cases seem to indicate more often than not, ‘crooked lawyers’ who end up in front of the Tribunal even on the most serious of charges, remain in legal practice while clients affected by their actions receive little or no redress.

Consumer Focus Scotland logoConsumer Focus Scotland support publication of Scottish legal profession’s complaints data. However, while there is still no sign of any similar moves by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission to name & shame Scotland's many rogue solicitors & law firms, Consumer Focus Scotland have now come out in favour of publishing complaints data, a move which may well help many Scots consumers avoid going to solicitors & law firms who for now, are able to keep their complaints records & regulatory histories hidden from the public.

Gemma Crompton, Senior Policy Advocate (Legal Services) for Consumer Focus Scotland commenting on the matter said : “Publications of complaints data is a useful source of information for consumers. The SLCC currently produces some complaints data within their annual report. This includes information on the number of complaints received, the areas of law to which these relate and the stage of the SLCC’s process at which these complaints were resolved.”

Ms Crompton continued : “In its ‘Complaints about solicitors’ research, the Scottish Consumer Council, one of our predecessor bodies recommended that performance targets for each stage of the complaints process be published. Case study examples are published routinely by ombudsmen in the public sector, and used to be published by the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman in its annual report. In 2010, a survey of our consumer network of volunteers to inform the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman’s model complaints handling process found that the publication of the outcomes of complaints was a particularly important principle for these consumers.”

Insiders at the SLCC who spoke on the issue earlier this week claimed the Scots law complaints quango has no intention to name & shame any of Scotland’s ‘crooked lawyers’ for fear of upsetting the Law Society of Scotland who certainly do not want anyone finding out their solicitor may be up to their necks in complaints about negligence, embezzlement or ripping off legal aid claims ...

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

This simply demonstrates a number of important facts.

1) There are no honest lawyers in Scotland.

2) Their is no point complaining to the respective bodies who want all of this kept secret.

3)The powers that be are criminals themselves and have no respect for or wish to protect clients interests. Clients are money. The Law Society and SLCC are anti client and they reinforce this attitude by wanting everything kept secret. If as the Law Society claim they look after clients interests they WOULD WANT EVERYTHING PUBLISHED AS IT IS IN ENGLAND.

4) Secrecy is sinister, and by their entrenched attitude they are telling the public do not trust Scottish Lawyers.

Anonymous said...

Insiders at the SLCC who spoke on the issue earlier this week claimed the Scots law complaints quango has no intention to name & shame any of Scotland’s ‘crooked lawyers’ for fear of upsetting the Law Society of Scotland who certainly do not want anyone finding out their solicitor may be up to their necks in complaints about negligence, embezzlement or ripping off legal aid claims ..

They will not publish complaints so what chance has anyone got if they send in a written complaint to these people.

I wish I could get inside the head of one of these nutters, I mean protecting lawyers means no one can trust any lawyer. Talk about a policy to shoot yourself in the foot.

These complaints bodies are serial crooks, go on lawyers ruin someone else, you cannot help yourselves can you. I leave a few posters inside my clubs fishing hut, in train stations, on buses, any public place. It costs peanuts and it is effective.

Anonymous said...

In the light of your latest article Peter should Scottish clients use English Law Firms where practicable.

Bypass as many Scottish Law Frims as possible?

Anonymous said...

Scotland's main parties have been focusing on their plans for justice and care for older people, as election campaigning continued.

The SNP outlined its plans for improved victims' rights, while the Tories focussed on early prisoner release.

Labour pledged a national charter for social care and the Lib Dems unveiled their policy on council tax cuts for pensioners.

Voters go to the polls in the Scottish Parliament election on 5 May.
---------------------------

I don't think the main parties will want to discuss Law Society justice, the old ladies Austin Lafferty refered to when he said his ideal client would be a wealthy old lady.

Anonymous said...

I agree if this kind of information is published along with the names of the lawyers being complained about we would all have a much better chance of steering clear of the Law Society sponsored crooks.

Peter Cherbi said...

# Anonymous @ 30 March 2011 22:25

I agree ...

# Anonymous @ 30 March 2011 22:58

It may well be left up to consumers to get the message out about 'crooked lawyers' and complaints in Scotland ...

In any case, the SLCC cannot be trusted to publish an honest account of complaints given their anti-client statements and policies ...

# Anonymous @ 30 March 2011 23:16

This may be a good idea although of course dealing with legal issues in Scotland currently requires a practising solicitor in Scotland to handle particular issues ... a convenient cosy monopoly well protected by he Law Society of Scotland for decades.

If may well be consumers take their business to English solicitors who then must employ a Scottish solicitor to handle particular parts of the work required by the client.

If Scottish consumers cannot get good standards of legal service in Scotland, they should move their legal work to firms in other parts of the country who may be better regulated.

I would also advise all consumers to now start asking to see lawyers complaints histories before doing business with them, particularly since using a lawyer is one of the most expensive important services consumers are forced to use in the UK today ...

At the end of the day only fully independent regulation of legal services in Scotland along with full publication of complaints data & an effective ratings system will help ensure consumers get a better deal in legal services over the vested interests of the legal profession.

Anonymous said...

Great idea Peter and if you keep writing enough about it they will have to do it!!

Keep up the good work!!

Anonymous said...

I think lawyers will fight this to the death because if we knew how crooked they all are not one of them could ever be trusted!

Anonymous said...

The sooner Scottish Law is replaced by that in England and Wales the better, then we might see something resembling equality.

Anonymous said...

It is a pity that many more people out there will learn lawyers are fundamentaly evil the hard way.

They do not care one jot what happens to their clients, perhaps they get a kick out of the power factor, but what they fail to realise is that power comes in many forms. Because the state approves of lawyer covering up lawyer crime that does not mean it will stay that way.

Anonymous said...

Anyone in Scotland can contact an English QC directly for advice, without the need for a lawyer acting as an expensive go-between.

Just one more glaring inconsistency defended by the Law Society of Scotland and the Faculty of Advocates.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the case twelve closed - I asked my solicitor for my file and he refused at first until I mentioned your name and said I'd be contacting Peter Cherbi to have his refusal published.He gave me the file the same afternoon with a covering letter saying there was no charge so perhaps we already have a Legal Ombudsman in Scotland and its Peter Cherbi!

Anonymous said...

It sounds crazy someone in Scotland must be forced to use an English lawyer because of better regulation only then to find out their English lawyer will have to taken on a Scottish lawyer to do any necessary work and all because Scotland wants to keep its banana republic legal system it keeps telling everyone is beyond reproach !

Anonymous said...

I'm not surprised Irvine's lot wont publish complaints data - they are clearly far too close to the Law Society to give any client a chance against a crooked lawyer

Anonymous said...

Mr Devine fiddled expenses 16 months imprisonment. Yes he deserves to go to jail.

Scottish lawyers £221K Legal Aid taken fraudulently, no questions asked. Why no public trial?

Anonymous said...

The sooner the Legal Ombudsman identifies those lawyers in these complaints the better and of course if England & Wales have this so should we in Scotland otherwise its blatant prejudice against clients.

Anonymous said...

Would anyone use an electrician who has burned down 5 houses ?
I wouldn't.
Similarly would anyone use a lawyer who has 5 10 or 15 complaints about them ?
I wouldn't.

Its time to name & shame Scotland's crooked lawyers in public or anywhere there is a space to put up their name,picture and details of what they did.
Get to it everyone!

Anonymous said...

This may be a good idea although of course dealing with legal issues in Scotland currently requires a practising solicitor in Scotland to handle particular issues ... a convenient cosy monopoly well protected by he Law Society of Scotland for decades.

Perhaps English solicitors should challenge this as a means of augmenting their client base?

Anonymous said...

If I have to spend 000's on a lawyer I think I have the right to know what they've been up to and how many complaints they've had.The more people who demand this info before using lawyers the quicker it will have to be published.

EX CLIENTS ARE THE NEW REGULATORS OF CROOKED LAWYERS said...

There is an unwritten law embedded in the Legal Establishment.

WE ARE THE LAW BECAUSE OUR SELF REGULATING LEGAL LOOPHOLE SAVES US.

Let them fight tooth and nail to defend self regulation, Google Crooked Lawyers there you will find the websites that are the real regulators. Ex Clients are the regulators. Always check for example solicitorsfromhell.co.uk before going to any lawyer and then tell them (before they represent you) you will put your complaint on the website if they mess you about.

Lawyers are only bastards because they know the Law Society SLCC are there to protect them. Name and shame websites strip away that protection.

Here is an example

http://www.solicitorsfromhell.co.uk/index.php?listing=Ross%20Harper&option=com_directory&page=viewListing&lid=468&Itemid=

Cameron Fyfe took legal aid payments for 6 yes six years and on the day of the proof it transpired that he had forgotton to tell the defenders in my case i had been sequestrated in 2004.

So after 8 years of trying to get my case into the court of session edinburgh, the defenders called caution and it was granted £50,000.

To be able to continue i would have to find that money, i am now representing myself as a party litigant and am horrified at his mistakes.

I have the productions in the case i have reported him to the law society and they have done nothing.

WOULD YOU GO TO HIM?

Anonymous said...

# Anonymous @ 30 March 2011 22:58

It may well be left up to consumers to get the message out about 'crooked lawyers' and complaints in Scotland ...


To be honest Peter I think this is the only way, it is a pity we do not have stickers for our cars with the various website addresses.

We would all probably get pulled over by the cops for displaying the stickers, even though we we
were a protest group.

Anonymous said...

The Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman used to publish some cases in the newspaper so why are the SLCC not doing this now?
I think Peter is correct about it being too close to the Law Society with all those lawyers ex cops and quangocrats? and Law Society workers filling its jobs.

Anonymous said...

Forget access to justice, meet double standards..again.

Anonymous said...

A little reminder

SIR MENZIES CAMPBELL QC - MEMBER OF THE FACULTY OF ADVOCATES - Spent nearly £10,000 refurbishing his central London flat. Announced he will pay back £1,500 cost of interior designer.

MICHAEL ANCRAM QC - MEMBER OF THE FACULTY OF ADVOCATES - Claimed more than £14,000 a year for second homes despite property portfolio worth £8m. Admits claim for swimming-pool maintenance was wrong and has repaid cash but insists he did not claim for anything that enhanced the property.

MARK LAZAROWICZ - MEMBER OF THE FACULTY OF ADVOCATES - Claimed more than £5,000 on 'legal and professional fees'.

DOUGLAS ALEXANDER - MEMBER OF THE LAW SOCIETY OF SCOTLAND - Having spent £30,000 on home, demanded more cash after "under-insured" property was damaged by fire. His MSP sister, Wendy, resigned as Scottish Labour Leader following the WENDYGATE expenses scandal in 2008.

ALISTAIR DARLING - MEMBER OF THE FACULTY OF ADVOCATES - Who would have thought our lawyer Chancellor had time to operate a property dealing sideline by "flipping" his registered homes and claiming thousands of pounds of taxpayers' cash? Incredibly, Darling is someone who was (and still is?) a fervent supporter of the Trotskyite Fourth International.
-------------------------------
Yes the public can trust their elected represestatives alright, as much as they can trust a Scottish lawyer.

Anonymous said...

The SNP outlined its plans for improved victims' rights, while the Tories focussed on early prisoner release.

SNP do not see lawyers ruined clients as victims.

Tories are a waste of space too.

Anonymous said...

When we bought our house in 2008, our solicitor screwed us over in several ways. We officially complained and even though we had the proof, our complaint was ignored. So it begs the question, why bother complaining.

Peter Cherbi said...

# Anonymous @ 10 May 2011 15:53

If you like you can send any information to me and copies of your complaints against the solicitor in your house purchase.

Put it this way, if your solicitor has ripped you off, they have probably ripped off many others and therefore deserve to be identified in the media.

You can send any material on your complaint to me via scottishlawreporters@gmail.com