I know I’m a bit late. I know you already have some, most of which you’ve probably forgotten or are at least ignoring. I know the start of the new year seems an awfully long time ago. But it is still January (just) and because my last post was about complaints, I thought it would only be fair to give you a chance to avoid them. Most should be glaringly obvious, but you’d be surprised.
We Brits like to complain. We are renowned for moaning about the weather (with good cause), unreliable trains (ditto) and bad service in restaurants (quite often ditto). Mostly, however, the complaining comes to naught because it is done in private to our family and friends and nowhere near the people who might be able to do something about it.
There is nothing like a discussion about consumer complaints to get lawyers’ heckles rising. Argue there is no such thing as an unjustified complaint and you get short shrift. Remind them it was the Law Society’s diabolical complaints’ handling that kicked off legal reform in the first place and you get a glowering look. Mention the Legal Ombudsman (LeO) and you’ll get thrown out of the room.
I thought I was dreaming about legal complaints this morning, which was a bit worrying as I like to think I have a fairly creative imagination. You can imagine my relief when I realised that, rather than my conscience being overwhelmed by the trials and tribulations of legal consumers, I was semi-sleeping through the chief legal ombudsman’s interview on Radio 4’s Today programme.
I know not all lawyers are bad and I apologise for going on about it. I do realise that most of you do a great job for your clients and, on the whole, the world would be significantly more unjust without you. For a start, I’d be out of a job. But I thought this week I might give you a couple of examples where lawyers have got it spectacularly wrong, just so you know I’m not making it all up. I am not intending to descend into Solicitors from Hell territory, so I won’t be naming any names.
The Law Society was remarkably quiet yesterday following the announcement that the Legal Ombudsman (LeO) will ‘name and shame’ lawyers from April next year. If past indications were anything to go by I would have expected a wailing, gnashing of teeth and most of the toys to be thrown out of the pram.
It’s probably not quite close enough to Christmas to start employing pantomime analogies, but if there were ever a Cinderella in our justice system it is surely administrative justice. It’s not a phrase that trips easily off the tongue, most of the public have probably never heard of it, most lawyers don’t pay it much attention and even the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) barely mentions it in its business plan. Which is odd because, unlike criminal justice, most people will probably come into contact with it at some point.
I've spent quite a lot of time being not very nice about solicitors. Over the years I've been working in the legal sector, first at Which?, then at a national law firm and for the Law Society, I've branded them arrogant, patronising, out-of-touch and overpriced. However, despite this general antipathy towards the profession, I have never been a fan of the Solicitors from Hell website. Not surprisingly, neither is the Law Society. So at least that's one thing we agree on.