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.
I was amused to read that at least one legal entrepreneur thinks lawyers are ‘in denial about what customers hate about law firms’. With probably only one exception Ajaz Ahmed, the founder of Freeserve and co-founder of the award-winning Legal365, said last week that ‘there has been a complete and utter lack of any innovation, disruption or new business models’ in the legal profession.
As you can imagine, calls for non-clients to have the right to complain about lawyers have gone down like a ton of bricks in some quarters. Apparently it will open the door to a flood of vexatious complaints from people unhappy they lost their case or who think their opponent’s lawyer was a bit rude or unpleasant. Worse still, it is being proposed by ‘quangocrats’ who have ‘no idea of the reality of legal practice’.
Lawyers, it has to be said, aren’t known to be the most tech savvy of professions. I say this as someone who likes to pretend they know what I am doing but as soon as someone starts talking about Ethernets, malware or RAM my eyes glaze over and I start to think about what to cook for dinner.
Thanks to the typical English bank holiday weather over the weekend I barely ventured out of the house and instead found myself working. Sad but inevitable. It’s also a bit sad that as a ‘consumer champion’ it was only in May 2012 that I came across a report on consumer attitudes towards the purchase of legal services published by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) in February 2011.
I wouldn’t want to compare the legal services market to Soviet Russia given how that’s turned out, but that is rather how I felt coming home from the Legal Futures conference on ‘the new frontiers of law’ on Monday. Having said that, there may be some similarities.
People who know me know that I am not afraid to cry. Sometimes it doesn’t take much: watching my daughter skipping in the garden, burning the dinner, stubbing my toe, kittens playing (ok, that’s probably an exaggeration). But on the whole I don’t get emotional about adverts, unless they are for John Lewis, which, I believe, are designed to induce sobs from even the hardest of hearts.
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.
Working with lawyers when you aren’t one is a tricky business. I did it for four years and I now feel as if I could do anything. It’s not that I didn’t like any of them, many were actually good company and I even socialised with some. And it’s not that I didn’t think they did a good job – quite a few did, even though I sat opposite the client care manager so I also heard about their dirty laundry. No, what makes working with lawyers such a challenge is they think theirs is the only job that matters.
As I sat in an excruciatingly long, unmoving queue at Lanzarote airport on Thursday I nearly caused a stampede when I read about the QualitySolicitors deal on my iPhone. My little whoop of excitement and slight leap into the air made many of the frustrated travellers around me think that Spanish ground crew had finally turned up to check us in.