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31/05/2013

A lesson in professionalism

We get a lot of requests for information or advice on NL. This one was special.

From Mike M[…]

Email xxxx@cardiff.gov.uk

Message

intentionally homeless for abandoning suitable accommodation, looking for caselaw on this subject

From: Nearly Legal

Sent: 30 May 2013 16:55

To: Mike M[…]

Subject: Re: A comment from Mike M

Well, the blog is there to search. Anything more is what we get paid for.

NL

 

From: “Mike M[…]”

xxxx@cardiff.gov.uk

Date: 31 May 2013 07:54

Subject: RE: A comment from Mike M[…]

To: “Nearly Legal”

Thanks for your reply, but it was not helpful, I understand there is a blog, but I do not have the time to search, when you guys have set up the site and must be all knowing on such matters would suggest a few case law’s on my request.

Not helpful and very unprofessional of you

Kind regards

M. M[…]

Homeless Assessment Team
Xxxx@cardiff.gov.uk

Out of a possibly misplaced sense of mercy, I have redacted his email address. However, for such a remarkable display of entitlement, onto the step goes Mr M[…].

Naughty Step

[Update. Mr M[…] is annoyed with me.

From NL
To Mike M[…]

Dear Mr M[…]

In order to remind myself of the need to be professional at all times in immediately doing unpaid work for someone who can’t be bothered to do it themselves, even though it is their job (and they have a Council legal department if they are stuck), I have put a note on the blog.

Regards

NL

From Mike M[…]
To: NL

Dear NL,

Again your tone is very derogatory, I guess your website is not helpful, so why bother setting it up in the first place, I though it was about sharing information and helping each other in such matters.

It is not about not bothering to search, it was trying to get answers as quickly as possible to help applicants in their homeless approaches. I also do volunteering for two separate organisations and I am always professional. Council legal departments are not always the best people to ask when you have experts in such fields that can help.

I shall not be using your site and will instruct others to go to other more professional sites, as it is clear that you are not.

Thankyou for your time spent on being unprofessional when you could have spent the time dealing with the request

Kind regards

M. M[…]

Mr M. [M…]
Homeless Assessment Team

I fear Mr M[…] really doesn’t get it. Also poor Cardiff Legal Services! I’m sure they are actually wonderful. And expert.

Perhaps I should take this chance to make clear something that we hoped would have been blindingly obvious. Mr M[…]’s first contact was via the contact form on our About page. On that page it says:

The purpose of this blog is to provide information and discussion. Nothing on this blog should be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice from a qualified solicitor regarding any actual legal issue or dispute. Nothing on this website should be construed as legal advice or perceived as creating a barrister/solicitor-client relationship. Please note that we cannot give advice on individual’s situation or problems on this blog.

There are many good reasons for this, including lack of insurance for advising via the blog, lack of confirmation of client ID, not seeing documents and so forth. But there is also the question of time and effort being demanded for free. Every contributor to the blog is busy. and does this in what remains of their own time. We are delighted if it is of use to people. But if we were to take up giving free advice and assistance via the blog, we would end up doing nothing else. Frankly, I prefer to be able to eat.

The kind of advice we are asked for, not least by Mr M[…], is the kind of thing we get paid to do, one way or another, what with being professionals and all. The contributors to the blog are happy to help people with legal issues, it is what we do all day (and frequently evenings) but we do so on proper terms of engagement and, somehow (via legal aid, Conditional fee agreement, private etc.), for fees. ]

[Update 2. OK, I promise to stop this now, honestly I do. But I have to include this last shot from Mr M[…] in which I am accused of lèse-majesté against Cardiff Council, in its incarnation in Mr M.:

Thankyou for your assistance and for putting me on the naughty step in your blog, not professional and not complementary either to myself or Cardiff Council. It just goes to show that you are not a professional person and somewhat immature.

Also, he “will not use this site or ask [me] anything again”. Which seems like a reasonable resolution to me.]

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.

51 Comments

  1. Rentergirl

    I would favourite that response, if such an option was available.

    Reply
  2. Anon

    Mr M sounds terribly lazy. Perhaps he should do what the rest of us do . . . get a text book and start from there. Then spend some hours researching bailii or other legal material site. Alternatively he could access one of the many professional training courses available to Cardiff council. Oops, that might mean doing some work . . .

    Reply
  3. Hugh

    It’s “a few case law’s” which makes this pure art.

    Reply
  4. Nick Holmes

    Some people just don’t know how to ask nicely.

    Reply
  5. Anya

    I like the “kind regards”.

    Reply
  6. chief

    “Frankly, I prefer to be able to eat” – this is just the sort of typical fat cat lawyer attitude that needs to be stamped out.

    Reply
  7. Michael M

    A simple request as turned into a war of words between myself and NL, I requested if there was any case law on intentionality for abandoning a suitable property. If anyone is out there can assist me, I would very much appreciate it, I have looked but finding it difficult to achieve this goal. I am a very hard working Homeless Officer in my spare time I am a youth leader and teach skiing for nothing. If any body asks me a question, I try and help. For those who have commented on me as a person or Cardiff Council, your comments are not warranted as you do not know me or the Council that I work for. I thought this was a sight for professional people to share knowledge and information as Law is a very complex area and not one person knows it all. It seems that this site is set up to make poor judgments on people’s queries.

    I don’t appreciate people who are unprofessional especially the people operating this site

    Reply
  8. Jane

    NL, do not be such pain in the neck, be a little bit more helpful, it Friday for christ sake and guy just wanted a simple answer :)

    Reply
    • Giles Peaker

      It is a complicated answer and he just demanded it. Besides I enjoy being a pain in the neck, particularly on Fridays.

      Reply
      • Michael M

        I did not demand it, I asked in a professional mannar and i was polite

        Reply
        • Nick Holmes

          “intentionally homeless for abandoning suitable accommodation, looking for caselaw on this subject” Professional? Polite?

        • Bagpuss

          It wasn’t polite, or professional. It was very demanding, especially as the contact form specifically explains that NL doesn’t and can’t provide specific advice regarding individual cases.

          Your subsequent e-mails then became rude
          (For the record, there is nothing unprofessional or derogatory in declining to work for free, particularly when the person wanting you to do so can’t be bothered to learn the house rules)

          HINT: if you want someone to do something for you for nothing, PARTICULARLY if that is something which is their livlihood, a good first step is to ask politely.

          If you don’t want to make yourself look like an entitled idiot, a good second step is to accept gracefully the response you get, even if the response is “No, I won’t do your job for you” or “No, I won’t work for you for free”

    • chief

      He asked on Thursday, so the response was entirely proportionate.

      That reminds me: need case law on proportionality send now if you’re not unprofessional

      Reply
  9. Rentergirl

    Yeah, Giles – you could swap – ‘free skiing lessons for legal expertise. But seriously Michael – why not just ask sensible questions, and ask them nicely, and appreciate that others might not have free time to do you bidding when you snap your fingers ‘community work’ or not.

    Reply
    • Michael M

      I did snap my finger i just asked if someone could help or knew of any case law, i was not demanding but asked a simple question.

      Reply
  10. DN

    This won’t be very useful for local authorities in Wales, but English authorities actually have access to a consultancy line for specialist housing support run by a partnership of CAB and Shelter.

    If you’re getting requests from English local authorities needing free housing advice it might be worth pointing them on to the National Homelessness Advice Service (NHAS): http://www.nhas.org.uk/

    Reply
    • Michael M

      Thankyou for your assistance i will check the site out.

      Reply
  11. jim Bauld

    Michael

    I realise you may not see this reply

    However I am at a total loss that you feel the need as a council employee to seek legal advice from a “blog”

    Your council (I assume) employs in house lawyers and may also contract external solicitors to provide advice.They should be your port of call.If no such resource is available to you then you should be asking sone serious questions of the Chief Executive of your council not posting cheap shots at a hard wroking lawyer

    I am also a lawyer and have regularly done training on housing law for council teams in ScotlandI am paid for that work and as a part of such paid work I will offer to deal with occasional “follow up” queries from staff.What i cannot do is give them “free” legal advice.

    Have you considered setting up “in house” training” session for you and your team…you could ask Giles or a similarly talented and expert lawyer to come to Cardiff for the day, pay him(or her) an appropriate fee and get him to answer all sorts of hyppothetical questions?

    Reply
    • Michael M

      Dear Jim,

      I was not aware I was using the blogg to ask a simple question, about if any one knew of any case law relating to abandoning suitable accommodation. I was not demanding, I was told about this website from a trainner Steve Povey that this was a good source for information gathering. i now know that Solicitors want paying for their work, but when i am accused of being demanding i think that is unfair, as I was not. to be then informed that this was put on here to be slatted for asking and seeking assistance in a very complex case that i am working on, is unprofessional by all involved. I never put this onto the blogg. i used the contact us email format, i had not given any demands to wanting the information there and then or to stop Giles from doing anything to tend to my quiery.
      As you well know there are good and bad solicitors out there and may not know the answer. However I do not know everything about Homeless legislation as it is very complex and no matter how much people read the legislation they can not remember everything. i thought this site was going to be a helpful resource for profesional people, sadle i am wrong, as the comments from people have displayed this, I will thank thoses who have been supportive.
      This has now grown into something that was never intented to be more than a simple question.
      Training is always good for gainning knowledge but sadly it wont be with Giles.
      This has been a very dissapointing experience to this site and hope in the future that comments about people they dont even know should be kept to themselves.

      Reply
      • Giles Peaker

        Let me try to be helpful. You do understand the difference between a ‘resource’ and an ‘advice service’ don’t you? Would you email the author of a text book and ask them to find you the relevant bits from it and send them to you?

        Reply
        • Nick Holmes

          I think you should give this guy a break now. After all it’s Friday.

        • Giles Peaker

          I admire his persistence.

  12. Jane

    this post made my last hour at work, thanks for positive emotions

    Reply
  13. Faithie

    MM Steve Povey did not tell you to use a blog to help you make statutory decisions.

    Can I have a free skiiing lesson?

    Reply
  14. Sara S

    It’s threads like this that make me wish NL had a ‘like’ button.

    Reply
  15. House

    Clearly if you have enough time to write a blog for free you have enough time to answer questions for free and you are clearly unprofessional when you politely refuse. To be honest if I were you Gilles I’d hang my head in shame. Clearly.

    Reply
    • Giles Peaker

      To be fair (and I am scrupulously fair, even while being a pain in the neck) my refusal was not necessarily polite. It was in the same tone as the request.

      Reply
      • House

        See now I thought it was quite polite :)

        Reply
  16. Caring of Stoke Newington

    Hi Mike

    After a long day slogging it out in independent practice, thank you for reminding me why I can never be an in-house local authority lawyer again.

    Ever.

    Reply
  17. Natalie Reeves

    I frequently ask NL question on twitter about general housing issues. As a law student and CAB adviser with a keen interest in housing law I find the blog and tweets invaluable and I have learnt a lot. Perhaps you could review how you asked the question and whether it was to gain an expert opinion or just to save yourself the effort.

    Reply
  18. Jo neal

    Please could Mr M[…] use a spell check and punctuation in future?

    Reply
  19. The Dustman

    Gosh, you guys are still around then!!
    Since Mr M[…] clearly doesn’t know much about the law I think he is an ideal candidate for a job at the Ministry of Justice. There is a training video available at:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YPTaFRZSzI4&feature=youtu.be
    Don’t forget the deadline for responses to the MoJ consultation of 4th June, children

    Reply
  20. Felix Labinjo

    Did M[…] forget that, as an employee of Cardiff Council, he is expected demonstrate the highest standards of conduct? My understanding is that the Council’s Code of Conduct is automatically incorporated into employees’ contracts of employment.

    Reply
  21. wolfchild

    What a MotherFlipper. Last time I thought about it, I understood that it was the local authority’s responsibility to carry out an investigation into a homeless application, apply the law to that investigation and then make a decision upon the homeless application. Why, after the 1977 Act, the consolidation in 1985 and the 1996 Act, I had understood that after 35 years of this legislation, this investigation and decision making process must happen as a matter of statutory obligation. I had also hoped, in my apparent naivety, that this is what local authorities did or at least what they attempted to do. Am I missing something? Otherwise, I am going to assume that a local authority Homeless Officer from a big local authority has displayed a fundamental misunderstanding of the law, his job, his ability to consult Cardiff CC’s own legal department (rather than tapping up dedicated, overstretched and pilloried legal aid lawyers for advice upon how to deal with his case) and that the idea of social media sites such as a well established and VERY PROFESSIONAL blog is, well, “social” and open to comment? There is no apology for NL’s refusal to advise and none needed. At all. Next Up: Homeless applicant’s Solicitor asks LGA for guidance on how to approach a s.202 review request.

    Reply
  22. Tessa Shepperson

    As the author of another reasonably well known Landlord and Tenant law blog, I get emails requesting free advice on a daily basis.

    In fact I have a special standard email which I call ’email for people wanting free advice’ where point out to them that if I answered all the questions I was asked, I would be able to do no paid work at all.

    To help a bit I have set up my ‘blog clinic’ http://www.landlordlawblog.co.uk/clinic/ where at least they click through a disclaimer which hopefully will give me some protection and many of the questions on the clinic are really interesting and I enjoy answering them. It also gives me something to write about!

    It just shows the demand and need for legal advice that is out there.

    However the people who request the free advice are very rarely prepared to pay for it – I have noticed that the people who actually use my paid services have hardly ever subscribed to any of my free services.

    This is something that has become apparent to me over the past six months since I subscribed to a new contact management and marketing system (Infusionsoft) where I am able to track these things. It has surprised me actually but it is very clear.

    Which makes me think that from a purely commercial viewpoint, assisting people who request free advice does not make commercial sense. Although from a humanitarian viewpoint I will sometimes give them a pointer.

    Just thought I would share this! Its not intended as any sort of comment about the bod from Cardiff.

    Reply
  23. Nadz

    Erm.. am i right in thinking the Homeless Officer wants caselaw on how to support an intentionality decision?!

    lool

    Reply
  24. TSHO

    MM states that he ‘was trying to get answers as quickly as possible to help applicants in their homeless approaches’. I am sure the applicants wouldnt mind if he didnt ‘help’ as much in future, and not make them intentionally homeless.

    In my experience the knowledge of so many local authority homeless officers is lacking, so this post is not a surprise to me. Training takes place but the knowledge is not retained, which leads them to expect others to provide the answers.

    I wouldnt worry. It is unlikely that had you provided the ‘case law’s’, they would have been understood.

    Reply
  25. Kate H

    Entertaining. You wrok, Mr Peaker!

    Reply
  26. Justcolli

    As a local authority homeless officer I would be amazed if i kept my job after making such a request.

    Making a positive decision is the easiest thing in the world, no legal help required as no one is going to question the decison. If you require caselaw to justify an intentionally homeless decision your probably making the wrong decision.

    Apply the facts against legislation, try not to make judgements and bingo, job done.

    If you get a request for review show how you came to the decision and don’t take it to heart if it gets overturned.

    Reply
    • simplywondered

      round of applause for Justcolli.

      (and of course another round of boos for horrid, unprofessional rude mr peaker. you need one of those disclaimer thingies to make it clear. i recommend something like:
      DISCLAIMER
      The purpose of this blog is to provide information and discussion. Nothing on this blog should be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice from a qualified solicitor regarding any actual legal issue or dispute. Nothing on this website should be construed as legal advice or perceived as creating a barrister/solicitor-client relationship. Please note that we cannot give advice on individual’s situation or problems on this blog.

      I found it on a very good housing blog i frequent where they are nice and professional. and damn good information and discussion they provide too. i might quibble with the placement of the apostrophe in ‘individual’s situation’ but hey, it’s free after all…)

      i don’t want to be nasty to michael m, but can offer him free advice of my own: hole … digging … STOP!

      Reply
  27. TSHO

    have to disagree with justcolli – there is nothing wrong with finding/using caselaw to justify a negative decision, and the requirement of caselaw to support the decision does not mean the decision is wrong, but you need to know the basis of what you are looking for – not simply ‘these are the facts – how do i make them intentionally homeless?’.

    the fact that it is very easy to accept a duty is the reason that investigations should be carried out, and it is worrying if positive decisions are never questioned. I have (and have had) colleagues that accept nearly every application they take.

    Reply
    • Justcolli

      Agree TSHO, don’t know if what I said come across correctly but I was just pointing out that the job is not that difficult. I use caselaw on a regular basis and part of the reason for using this site is to get pointers when assessing applications.

      What I meant by “If you require caselaw to justify an intentionally homeless decision your probably making the wrong decision” was that I would assume the caseworker has already done some reasearch, and was now trying to justify a decison they were unsure of.

      Unless of course they were really just being lazy.

      Reply
      • TSHO

        thats fair, and in that case I agree with you – the facts should always come first, and the decision in consequence of them.

        I doubt I am alone in knowing of cases where an officer has made their mind up before taking the specifics into account, and then looks for ways to support their thinking.

        Reply
  28. Douglas

    Ha ha! this is so funny! a great ‘sight for professional people’ [sic]

    Reply
  29. JAC

    There may be no lesson in professionalism involved, but it has provided me with a lesson in the humanity (or otherwise) of my professional colleagues. I’m a little surprised that such a supercilious effort at public humiliation receives so many congratulatory messages.

    Reply
    • Giles Peaker

      Supercilious? Sniffy, I’ll grant you. I plead provocation.

      Reply
  30. RB

    Yeah, he could have at least posed as a shelter adviser.

    Reply
  31. Steve

    Posting on a blog during work hours as a public servant – must move to Wales! Didn’t someone from Birmingham City Council do something like this a few years ago – is this a trend? – who next?

    Reply
    • Matt Wardman

      Oh all right:

      “IA visitor to the Assembly yesterday spotted a small boy, about 10, carrying a balloon. A security guard went up to him. “No balloons allowed” he said.

      The guard took the balloon from the boy and chewed a hole in its neck – letting the air out. The boy was rather surprised.

      He asked the guard why he’d done it was was told the Senedd had banned balloons. Why? Latex allergies. “If people with a latex allergy pick up the balloon there could be trouble.” But of course.

      Just thought you’d wonder, just like the visitor to the Senedd, whether there wasn’t a better way of getting rid of hot air around here. “

      Reply

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