Legal Ombudsman for England & Wales is expected to decide on naming & shaming before end of the year. AS DEMANDS GROW from consumers of legal services in Scotland & throughout the UK for an independent and transparent ratings system for lawyers & law firms, insiders from the consumer world report the Legal Ombudsman (LeO) which regulates complaints against the legal profession in England & Wales is expected to decide by the end of the year at the latest on how it will finally proceed to identify ‘crooked lawyers’ who have been found guilty of failing their clients after being subjected to investigations by the independent law complaints regulator.
Kenny MacAskill’s Scottish Legal Complaints Commission are determined not to identify crooked lawyers, even ones who steal legal aid funds. Yet while consumers in England & Wales will have the added protection of knowing exactly which solicitors & law firms fail their clients, and in what particular types of cases, giving clients the chance to dodge a potentially explosive, expensive bullet of a serial crooked lawyer, there is to be no similar move in Scotland by the Law Society ‘controlled’ Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) who have kept firmly out of the debate of identifying Scotland’s worst lawyers who continue to rip off multiple clients who are given a chance to walk away from a ruined client with as little as a £10 fine, regardless of the true financial loss to their client.
I reported on the Legal Ombudsman’s plans to name & shame poorly performing law firms & solicitors earlier in March, here : Name & Shame : Complaints data on law firms to be published in England & Wales, Scots solicitors complaints history to remain secret, for now however, the road to publicly naming the worst elements of the legal profession in England & Wales has been a rocky one, with consultation after consultation, more on which was reported here : England & Wales : Legal Ombudsman criticised as ‘name & shame’ policy hit by lawyers protests over insurance costs, second consultation now underway and alleged secret threats of legal action by the Law Society of England & Wales if the LeO’s plans went ahead.
Legal Ombudsman for England & Wales, Adam Sampson has backing to name rogue lawyers & law firms.As the LeO’s plan to identify solicitors & law firms in complaints judgements has the backing of consumer organisations such as Which?, and the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), the UK Government and the Legal Services Consumer Panel, more of which cab be read in an earlier report here : Legal Ombudsman moving to name & shame crooked lawyers in England & Wales, crooked Scottish solicitors records to remain protected by secrecy for now, observers in the consumer world say the time has now come for the LeO to act on the matter at hand, as consumers are being put at an ever increasing risk of using the wrong lawyer they know nothing about, particularly in these tough financial times where clients cannot afford to get into long running & costly spats with their legal representatives over misrepresentation, negligence, or even fraud.
One client who spoke to Diary of Injustice said it was imperative the LeO identified lawyers who fail their clients so that others can avoid the same fate.
He said : “The Legal Ombudsman has to get on with this now rather than waiting until its too late. I have spoken to people I know who used the same lawyer as I did and ended up with a huge bill and the same failure to do anything in their case. They said if they had known of what happened to me they would have avoided using the same lawyer.”
He continued : “Everyone should know the names of useless lawyers who mess up their clients cases and there should be some sort of online directory where we as clients can write about what really happened so nothing is missed out. I really wouldn't want what happened to me at the hands of a crook in a suit, happening to others.”
There is no announcement yet from the Legal Ombudsman on how the naming & shaming policy will be implemented, however Diary of Injustice will report on developments as they occur.
RATE YOUR LAWYER – GOOD, RUBBISH, OR CROOKED :
In the meantime, Diary of Injustice has received considerable contact from clients across Scotland and in England & Wales on the subject of implementing a ratings system allowing clients themselves to rate their own lawyer. Many ideas have been expressed on who should be in charge of overseeing such a ‘directory’ with many readers pointing out the legal profession cannot be trusted to maintain any kind of book or register on their own abilities as seen from the client perspective. I agree.
Solicitors from Hell website allows clients to comment on their experiences with lawyers. While the Legal Ombudsman takes the time to decide on how to proceed with naming & shaming ‘crooked lawyers’, the website “SOLICITORS FROM HELL” currently offers clients an opportunity to write about their own experiences with their lawyers, whether good or bad. I suggest consumers use the SFH facility. However, as readers will also be aware, the Law Society of England & Wales, apparently supported by their Scottish counterparts the Law Society of Scotland, are trying to close down Solicitors From Hell on the basis the SFH website gives too much free speech to consumers to name & shame their lawyers over failures we should all have the right to know about.
Diary of Injustice earlier reported the legal profession’s battle against Rick Kordowski & Solicitors From Hell, here : English, Scots Law Societies ‘team up’ in legal moves against “Solicitors from Hell” in bid to stop Legal Ombudsman ‘Naming & Shaming’ crooked lawyers after an investigation in Scotland turned up discussions at the Law Society of Scotland who were keen to support moves to kill off Solicitors From Hell in a joint attempt with the Law Society of England & Wales to ‘scare off’ the Legal Ombudsman’s intentions to identify poorly performing solicitors & law firms in published complaints decisions & investigations. The Law Society of England & Wales battle to undermine the owner of the Solicitors From Hell later took a highly personalised twist as Diary of Injustice reported during mid September : Naming crooks is criminal ? Law Society of England & Wales Chief Des Hudson to face legal action from Solicitors From Hell owner over "criminal" jibe.
Further developments in the Law Society v Solicitors From Hell battle will be reported later this week.
HUSH MONEY MAKES THE CASE FOR NAMING & SHAMING STRONGER THAN EVER :
Since reporting on the naming & shaming issue, Diary of Injustice has been approached by a Scottish solicitor acting on behalf of others who is apparently keen to steer this reporter away from further reporting on the Legal Ombudsman’s moves to identify law firms & solicitors who fail their clients. Additionally, a financial incentive was offered in an apparent attempt to persuade Diary of Injustice to drop reporting on the Solicitors from Hell case. Readers can rest assured, neither of the two incidents will have any effect on this journalist’s reporting on the legal profession or campaigning for reforms of consumer protection against the closed shop world of lawyer regulating lawyer and lawyers covering up for their colleagues, all the way up to the highest positions in the judiciary.
You, the Scots consumer of legal services have a right to know the full regulatory history of those in the legal profession you choose as your legal representatives. Given consumers in England & Wales will eventually be able to find out much of this same information, you should begin writing to your MSPs and the Scottish Government now to ensure YOUR RIGHTS are placed above vested interests.
After all, YOU are paying for your legal services, YOU have the right to know exactly who they are, what they are capable of, and whether they have damaged any clients in the past.