In the words of Alistair Sim, Director of Marsh UK - there isn't a lawyer in Scotland who doesn't have a complaints record.
Well, with 5000 plus complaints a year, for the last 10 years, coming in against around 9,500 solicitors in Scotland, that would mean that either every lawyer has had around 5 complaints made against them by clients, or some lawyers have many more complaints made against them by clients, which the Law Society dutifully prevaricates, delays, fiddles, fobs off, etc to make sure the very cream of the crooked in Scotland's legal profession get off the hook every time while the client gets ruined.
Some fine examples of the Law Society of Scotland Client Relations Office complaints handling I have covered in previous articles :
So, with the pool of lawyers in Scotland being tainted in the blood of clients, the legal profession needs to look to other areas of the population to expand it's services, which is why we are currently being treated to a raft of stories on the recruitment of paralegals and the lowering of 'education requirements' of those joining the legal profession. Something perhaps along the lines of ... "you don't need all that education just now, we can train you up to be a good litte crook later on!"
The thing about paralegals, is they are of course, regulated by the Law Society of Scotland - so when your shiny new paralegal does as much damage to your case as your crooked solicitor might have done, there will be as much redress against their actions as we currently have with crooked lawyers - and that is none .. at least none until the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission comes along, if it survives the pasting the Law Society and the legal profession are currently giving it .. fiddling in it's appointments plans, having a few meetings on the side with politicians to 'limit' it's remit among other things.
The question too on paralegals of course, is, would you like to work for a well known, allegedly respectable firm of lawyers which has nailed clients to the wall on so many occasions previously ?
What good would it do someone to go work for a firm of lawyers, were for instance, a senior partner has paid for an assault to be carried out on a client ? or an Office Manger has assaulted one of the female members of staff & got away with it ? How much trust could someone put in a firm like that and what advantages could it bring paralegals who work for such a firm ?
Here follows, is a story from the Scotsman on paralegals and how the legal profession now embrace them, hoping for their salvation in non lawyers, when salvation is perhaps putting right the sins of the past and learning to treat clients with respect, as the law demands.
Forget a law background, customer service skills matter most for paralegals
IF THERE is one thing all Scottish law firms welcome, it is the emergence of the paralegal profession. It provides a fulfilling career for many highly motivated people, and the qualification has earned the respect of the entire industry. However, many firms are split on how to recruit and train paralegals. Should you recruit people with some previous legal training or train from scratch? Caesar & Howie prefer the latter route.
First we look for people with the right attitude and abilities in customer service. Our firm's overriding priority is to ensure clients experience a personal and professional quality of service. We have therefore focused our recruitment efforts for paralegals towards people who can demonstrate excellent customer-service skills, then we train them to be paralegals.
We are fortunate to have a former law lecturer from Stirling University as part of our in-house training department who assesses the candidates and puts them through their training. This is supplemented by specialist paralegal training materials, purchased from Strathclyde University, as well as home study assignments. I believe that knowledge can be taught but attitudes and personality cannot. The technical skills can be acquired, but it is difficult to find good customer service via a textbook.
We recently recruited six conveynancing paralegals, none of whom had a legal background. Without exception they have excelled in the paralegal positions. They have completed their paralegal exams in just three months - the shortest time ever recorded in the firm - and with a further 6-12 months' practical experience will become fully qualified. All the candidates had responded to an advertisement in a local newspaper.
One of the respondents was Wilma Hunter, a local government officer. She had always been keen on the law but had been put off by the competitive nature of the legal profession and the demanding entry qualifications. Wilma never thought she could gain a legal qualification, but now she is confidently dealing with our clients on their conveyancing transactions.
The key attributes we look for in paralegals are good communications, organisational and customer service skills as well as a great deal of common sense. Coupled with a willingness to learn, there is no reason why anyone from a wide range of backgrounds cannot have a satisfying career as a paralegal.
• David Borrowman is the managing partner of Caesar & Howie, the central Scotland law group.