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23/11/2006

Even solicitors don't like solicitors

I was alternately amused and vaguely saddened by an article in the Law Gazette on the public’s continued perception of solicitors as only slightly higher up the ladder of moral evolution than estate agents. As a profession, Which? have found, solicitors are complained of as arrogant, elitist, failing to listen to clients, billing unexpectedly and not telling clients how cases are going.

That is probably fair enough, although I suspect a fair few legal aid solicitors won’t be happy at having their public image determined by the general public’s experience of conveyancers, PI claims managers and probate jockeys. Or, more respectfully, the range of fields and issues through which people encounter solicitors professionally would seem hard to yoke together into one overall experience.

But it is not just the public who are pissed off with their experience of solicitors. According to Maitland Kalton of Lawyers for Change, 40% of lawyers are not happy with their career choice. It seems that being a solicitor and being around other solicitors makes two fifths of solicitors deeply regret the way their life has turned out.

4 in 10 hate themselves and what they have become, so will be likely to subtly take out their self-loathing on the clients. But the other 6? Clearly, to be happy in an existence only marginally more esteemed than estate agents must take an utter absence of regard for the opinions of others, clients included.

For a client it is a difficult choice. Do you go with the passive aggressive with low self-esteem or the borderline sociopath who talks over you? Who gives better service?

Giles Peaker is a solicitor and partner in the Housing and Public Law team at Anthony Gold Solicitors in South London. You can find him on Linkedin and on Twitter. Known as NL round these parts.

14 Comments

  1. James Medhurst

    My experience of litigation is that I don’t hate myself but I do hate the lawyers on the other side rather a lot.

    Reply
  2. contact

    Oh true, true, and for me, topical. And to those involved, there is a difference between tactics and just not doing your job.

    Reply
  3. Adrian Tyndall

    I am not surprised by the law society findings nor this article. My experience of practising made me realise very quickly that the last person many solicitors consider is the client. I got out and now offer advice and assistance for clients who don’t want to pay for such shoddy service – and there are many many of them.

    Unfortunately high street firms are the worst, with many being kings of their particular little castle, arrogant, smug and conceited. I complained to a local firm on behalf of a client who had been billed for work six years after it was undertaken, and instead of dealing with the complaint, the firm reported me to the law soc for holding myself out as a solicitor. No wonder the public dislike the profession so much, when it attracts so many arrogant fools.

    Reply
  4. Richard Webster

    I’m not sure wheether this is relevant but as a solicitor I am not happy at what look like solicitors’ cost creation schemes.

    I am referring to deeds of covenant required as a condition of assignment of a normal residential long flat lease. (I know there are cases where there is no privity of estate for a separate mangement company that is a party to a lease – in those cases it may be understandable – but I’m not thinking about those.)

    My simple brain says that the lessee for the time being is bound by the terms of the lease in any event and if he doesn’t comply, pay the service charge, etc., then the Landlord ultimately can forfeit and resell at usually a huge windfall profit. A deed of covnenat might be significant in commercial situations where a landlord may want to be able to recover the rent under the lease from a previous lessee which might be higher than the rent obtainable if the lease was forfieted and relet.

    In residential long lease situations I just can’t see it – why would any landlord want to go and look for a previous lessee to recover a money judgement when he can forfeit? Also former residential lessees are more difficult to find. Commercial trennats are more likely to be companies whose registered offices are easily traceable.

    I’m forced to conclude that the only remaining reason is to allow the solicitor (or possibly the managing agent) the managing agent to collect a sum of money for processing a standard deed of covenant. I have a case at the moment where references for a licence to assign (consent not to be unreasonably withheld) have been supplied to the managing agent and I can’t see why the managing agent can’t write a letter consenting to the assignment, but instead my clients have had to pay £525 vat for a totally unnecessary licence to assign. I think this is unprofessional and solicitors should have a professional duty to advise their clients not to require such documentation where there is no practical benefit for the client, but only for the solicitor.

    What do others think about this?

    Reply
  5. contact

    Richard,

    I’d agree with you in terms of the practicalities, at least in relation to forfeiture for rent arrears as the easy option. But I suppose for pre L&T (Covenants) Act 1995 leases, the risk is there. I can’t see any solicitor saying “look, there’s a chance the landlord will come after you for this, but it’s not very likely so I’d recommend you don’t bother with getting a covenant”. In that, at least, it is not just a work creation device for solicitors, but an effect of the law. The practical benefit is a diminuition of risk, even if the risk is a small one.

    I couldn’t comment on the licence to assign, but that does sound rather more unnecessary.

    As a general point, it would, I think, be fair to say that it is not unknown for solicitors to come up with cost creation schemes, although not, I hasten to say, at my firm, who have impressed me with the scrupulousness of their billing.

    Reply
  6. Pete

    I had an illegal gate built across my right of access to my property, it clearly said in my deeds and those of the idiot who barred my access that it was illegal for him to impede my access across his land in any way.

    It’s taken six months of letters back and forth to get a key to this illegal gate and an agreement signed by all parties. There WAS an agreement already, our DEEDS, no further agreement was required. I feel that my solicitor was instrumental in these delays as it increased my fees. Between three plaintiffs the bill for his ‘work’ is over a thousand pounds, money I’m going to struggle to find. I don’t care how much you solicitors hate each other or yourselves, rest assured, I hate you all. You trade on the misfortune of others and care not how much you screw out of people poorer than yourselves. I hope you all rot in hell.

    Reply
    • James

      Pete, you’ve clearly got a tap into my brain. When you said:-
      “I don’t care how much you solicitors hate each other or yourselves, rest assured, I hate you all. You trade on the misfortune of others and care not how much you screw out of people poorer than yourselves. I hope you all rot in hell.”
      I thought BRAVO! SPOT ON!
      I’m only a skinny bloke, but in the last month I’ve lost a substantial amount of weight and been ill with worry thanks to arrogant, uncaring, time wasting, uncommunicative solicitors who don’t seem to be capable of making a very simple phonecall. Do they realise how much needless stress they put their clients through? If I treated my clients like solicitors treat theirs, I’d be out of a job in a flash.

      Reply
      • NL

        James, how can I put this? It is not rocket science. You need to find another solicitor if you are not happy with the one you have. I suppose it is much easier to stay with your current one and just accuse all solicitors of being the same way, but let’s us be honest, it is lazy, just as lazy as making assumptions about any profession, civil engineers let’s say, on the basis that some members of that profession are arrogant incompetents whose projects always end up at double the budget and whose bridges fall down.

        Fair point on the phone calls though. I do usually say to clients that if you aren’t hearing from me it is because nothing has happened, just to make silence a bit less ominous (and cheaper) ;-)

        Reply
  7. NL

    Pete, thanks for stopping by. Thanks also for demonstrating why you actually needed a solicitor. Whatever rights of access your deeds gave you, it was not ‘illegal’ for your access to be blocked as it is not a criminal offence.

    And I can safely say, given that you own a property – albeit one you have had trouble getting in to – that I am certainly poorer than you.

    But accuracy aside, you can be sure that one of the lower circles of hell is occupied by solicitors and their clients, locked into a never-ending matter, interrupted only by arguments over the bill. We will no doubt meet there.

    Reply
    • Paul Harris

      “Thanks also for demonstrating why you actually needed a solicitor” – what was that about arrogance again? ; )

      Reply
  8. M

    Ha! As much as I really do enjoy my free housing law fix at NL, I have to admit my favourite posts tend to be those made in haste by the lost, confused and angry.

    Reply
    • NL

      M, how can I put this? You don’t see the half of it. There is a world of lost, confused and angry out there, a significant chunk of which appears to have decided to email me.

      I have given up trying to explain that I am neither responsible for housing/property law, nor, unless the said lost, confused and angry person was actually my client, am I in any way responsible for the disastrous outcome of their case/their sizeable bill/refusal of permission to appeal by the High Court.

      But now I just think of it as adding to my karmic bank balance. If insulting a random solicitor makes them feel better…

      Reply
  9. Simon Seaton

    I dont know about hating ourselves but in the past ( when I qualified 15 years ago ), when it came to conveyancing there seemed to be a lot of hatred aginst each other.

    I cant speak for the other lawyers on this blog but in the field of conveyancing,I don’t come across any solicitors to hate any more. Most conveyancing these days seems to be carried out by unqualified staff. With the introduction of Tesco law in a couple of years may be it will be refreshing to deal with a solicitor on the basis of a novelty factor.

    Reply
  10. SH

    @ Simon Seaton, so you seem to have been practising for a mere 21 years?
    I have been Conveyancing now for nearly 33 and quite frankly, deal with as many unknowledgeable Solicitors as I do, the so called ‘unqualified staff’

    Reply

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