Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Cowboy solicitors


This seemed appropriate

When I was training, I was taught that solicitors and barristers should be highly professional, doing their best for their client no matter what – especially if the clients’ interests conflicted with the lawyers’ personal interests.

What I see in practise from those undertaking legal aid work almost always conforms to those high principles.  Sadly, the more I hear about lawyers undertaking privately financed work – i.e. criminal law work paid for by the client rather than legal aid – is falling short of those principles far too often.

Today I spoke to a client who has a drink driving case.  He contacted me and another solicitor for representation.  Neither of us has seen the prosecution evidence since it has not been served yet.  I have my note of our original conversation in front of me, I advised him on possible defences, special reasons and the likely sentence if convicted or if he chose to plead guilty.  After hearing his account, it was clear that there was no defence arising from his instructions and probably no special reason for the court not to ban him from driving.  Therefore, unless there was a defence on the prosecution papers he would have to plead guilty.

The other solicitor told him that she could certainly prove that the breath test machine at the police station was faulty and thus its evidence unreliable – odds were given of a 70% likelihood of acquittal.  Let us just think about that for a minute.  Without seeing any evidence, or hearing an account of the machine operating unusually, this person is very sure that she can prove the machine was faulty?  That seems a little unlikely to me.  Maybe, she has had another case where the intoximeter was proven to be faulty?  It takes a typical case between 3 to 6 months to get from arrest to trial – this can be much longer where expert evidence is required, as it would be in a faulty intoximeter case.  What are the chances that the police would not have had the faulty intoximeter repaired in that time?  I’d suggest they are pretty low.

Is the solicitor giving her potential client the best possible advice and thus acting in his best interests?  I would suggest that sending somebody on a very expensive fishing trip (she quoted at least £10,000, although if he lost he’d have to pick up the prosecution tab as well) is probably not in the client’s best interests.  Sure if they want to give it a go and don’t care about the money after hearing proper advice then it’s up to them but I find the idea of sending your client down that path merely to line your own pockets to be a very unpleasant act.

I am coming across this sort of nonsense more and more often as firms panic in their rush to pick up work.  It’s quite annoying when you know that you are losing business to somebody who will simply fleece the client for as much as they can, which gives all solicitors, including me, a bad name.

UPDATE: 30th April 2014

It is now exactly 23-hours since I published this blog post and I've received a call from another client who chose to instruct me because "you sound honest but the other solicitor I spoke to was promising things that sounded too good to be true" (he may have said "sounded like fantasy" - I wasn't making a precise note).

It's called professionalism people.

2 comments:

  1. Is that something you can flag to the regulatory body?

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    Replies
    1. Client's don't really want the hassle and are reluctant to get involved in making formal complaints so quite hard to target individuals.

      However, I might well contact the Solicitors Regulation Authority to ask that they keep this problem in mind.

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