Law Society of Scotland, promoter of the profession, not honesty & high standards of service. IF YOU have recently received a bill from your lawyer, it may well be wise to cast a more than cautionary eye over amounts being demanded from you, as the chances are there is some expensive, yet non existent & fabricated work included in the sums demanded by the same solicitor who once told you the issue requiring the work of a qualified legal practitioner would not pose any difficulty or extreme cost to resolve.
An on going investigation by Diary of Injustice into fees demanded by Scottish law firms has so far revealed a significant number of solicitors bills brought to our attention which have been further looked into and queried both by clients and journalists, contain what can only be described as false charges for legal work which has never taken place.
Journalists have been able to establish that in all of the cases of disputed fee demands presented to Diary of Injustice regarding queries over the key area of "Counsel's Opinions", most of the solicitors failed (many refused) to produce any justification for obtaining a Counsels Opinion and all but one of the solicitors failed (again, many refused) to even produce an actual copy of the Counsel's Opinion to the client to justify claims for expenditures of up to £3,800 a time on alleged fees due to advocates.
In the sole case where, after six requests from the client to do so, the solicitor who was demanding £2,600 for a 'Counsel's Opinion', produced an incomplete, 'partial copy' of a Junior Counsel's opinion, along with an alleged copy of a cover note from the advocate named in the opinion, further enquiries revealed the advocate who supposedly wrote the opinion was, at the time, on extended leave after recovering from an alcohol related illness and had not been working for six months.
The advocate in the above case, has since admitted to journalists he was never contacted by the solicitor representing the client in a bitter boundary dispute so far lasting six years which has cost the client upwards of seventeen thousand pounds. The inescapable conclusion on this case is that clearly, the solicitor faked the advocate's opinion in order to fraudulently demand fees from his client.
As the antics of profit hungry, increasingly desperate Scots law firms to squeeze every penny out of their already impoverished clients shows, the imagination of solicitors to charge for non existent work is not limited to phantom 'Counsel's Opinions', with bills sent by both large city law firms and small High Street solicitors to clients on a variety of issues such as property transactions, divorce, wills & estates of deceased clients to complicated financial arrangements, commonly contain charges for items such as :
Non existent meetings between solicitors & clients,
Property & title searches, charged for, yet never carried out,
Letters to clients with 'important documents' supposedly "lost in the post",
Court appearances in Sheriff Courts and even Scotland's highest court, the Court of Session, none of which actually took place,
Exorbitant charges for storage of wills & other documents which clients were initially told was "a free service",
Shocking charges of up to £1,000 a time for the simple act of authorising payments, money transfers and other pay-outs to clients & beneficiaries.
In most of the 37 cases of disputed fees brought to the attention of Diary of Injustice, the clients involved have submitted complaints to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC), Law Society of Scotland & Faculty of Advocates. However, all three regulators have a poor track record in dealing with complaints over solicitors & advocates fees. Diary of Injustice recently reported on the reluctance of the SLCC to use its powers in complaints about fees, here : Regulator’s use of powers to reduce fees demanded by ‘crooked lawyers’ fails to keep pace with client complaints, dissatisfaction with Scots law firms
Some clients involved in disputes with their solicitors over clearly fraudulent fee demands have even approached their local Police Forces, asking for arrests & prosecutions, only to be shockingly told the issues "are civil matters", even though it is plain the criminal offence of fraud is at work in many of the cases.
A Police source speaking to Diary of Injustice pointed the finger of blame at Scotland's Crown Office. He alleged the Crown Office are reluctant to prosecute solicitors in Scotland for criminal offences involving acts committed against clients, a fact backed up by several cases covered by Diary of Injustice and the media in the past where inexplicably, Scotland's Lord Advocate & Crown Office staff have refused to prosecute Scottish solicitors from everything from fraud against clients to the theft of millions of pounds of taxpayer funded legal aid.
Recently, Diary of Injustice has reported on how some clients have either been threatened with, or were actually made bankrupt by their law firm over disputes involving bills for legal work even though the law firm had actually significantly weakened or even ruined their client's legal affairs. Readers can view more on this here :
Since Diary of Injustice reported on a controversial case involving a Mr William Gordon and Perth Law firm Kippen Campbell, a number of clients have contacted Diary of Injustice telling of similar experiences of being threatened with sequestration or bankruptcy if bills for unsubstantiated legal work were not paid within seven days.
Cases like those already reported and others currently under investigation have led to a string of sequestrations across Scotland as a result of applications by law firms for the recovery of fees which commonly involve attempts to sell off client's properties on the cheap to recover a few thousand pounds for a greedy law firm which cannot provide evidence for its charges to clients.
Our advice - If you have a bill from your solicitor, the first thing you need to do is ensure it is itemised, and then if there is any work you are not sure took place, or was necessary in the first place, query the amounts asked for and if necessary, involve the regulators as soon as possible. If consumers want to alert Diary of Injustice to dodgy fee demands from solicitors, please email us via firstname.lastname@example.org