Law Society of Scotland won vote delaying practising fees row for now. PROTESTS from lawyers at last week's annual general meeting of the Law Society of Scotland over the 'high cost' of an annual practising certificate which allows solicitors to work, were insufficient to sway enough of the votes for an immediate reduction in the current annual practising certificate levy on solicitors of £665, raising the threat that many solicitors will increase their already exorbitant fees for legal work carried out on behalf of clients.
Instead, the Law Society won a five month delay to consider how it will react to members unwillingness to pay £665 a year to fund the huge salaries of staff and officials at the Law Society of Scotland's Drumsheugh Garden headquarters in Edinburgh, where as we saw in an earlier report, the current Chief Executive, Lorna Jack's salary along with the costs of her office which now stand at £326,000 a year.
Law Society’s Philip Yelland & SLCC’s Eileen Masterman do similar jobs on £1,350 a week. With solicitors already having to fork out £400 or so a year to fund the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, where Commission members are on up to £350 a day plus expenses, and officials such as the Law Society’s Director of Standards, Philip Yelland, and SLCC Chief Executive Eileen Masterman, are both doing the same job on salaries of £1,350 a week - all paid for out of solicitors pockets.
No doubt, the grumbles within the profession over these legal fat cat salaries will continue, but some legal firms are seemingly using their imagination to recover from clients, what they perceive to be the high costs of being a solicitor.
In several examples of accounts sent out to clients which have been brought to my attention, legal firms across Scotland are recouping their running costs and issues such as the cost of the practising fee, by issuing false fee demands to clients for legal work which has never been done.
I have reported on this subject earlier, here : Lawyers stealing from clients to earn 'double fees' while Law Society looks the other way in vast network of legal aid fraud & embezzlement & here : Lawyers fraudulent fee demands must be curbed by independent fee watchdog as culture of greed prohibits public access to justice
It is now becoming commonplace for legal firms to send out accounts to clients, falsely claiming they owe money on case work, some examples of which date back to over 10 years, where solicitors and their firms are regularly claiming to clients that “accounts have been overlooked and must now be settled”, with little or no explanation being provided for what work was actually done on the clients behalf.
Examples I have seen of some of these purely fake fee demands to clients have run into tens of thousands of pounds, the bills usually being accompanied with a seven day threat of legal action if payment is not made immediately, although when the legal firms are asked for specification & evidence as to exactly what work the solicitor did, the accounts are ‘reduced’ to in some cases, about a tenth of what was originally sought from the client, on threat of recovery.
A legal insider today admitted he was well aware many firms were sending out inflated bills. He said : “Many solicitors feeling the pinch have decided to look back through their work to see if they have missed sending out bills to clients.”
“Several of my colleagues are aware of a rising tide of complaints to the Law Society where clients are alleging they are in receipt of accounts from their solicitors for work which was never authorised or agreed to, and which there is no evidence even took place.”
He went on to claim that lawyers were being protected from criminal charges over the false fee demands, simply because of self regulation of the legal profession in Scotland : “If it were not for the fact the profession self regulates, I have no doubt the Police could be called in and fraud charges laid against several legal firms & individual solicitors.”
Of course, none of these issues were discussed at last week’s annual general meeting, although most or all of those legal firms attending are currently engaged in such practices, inspired by weak & corrupt self regulation, carefully maintained by the Law Society of Scotland, with any legislative reforms stifled by political allies to the legal profession.
Arguing about the cost of a practising certificate, while complaints, corruption, negligence, criminality and fraud spirals out of control among Scottish legal firms, will not repair the damage that lawyers have done to themselves, and their own business, and to public access to justice in Scotland.
The Scotsman reports :