Who guards the guards?

My friend Jonathan recently referred me to Rate-your-solicitor.com. I admire the idea of this website. I believe that the legal profession have, in general, setup a system whereby clients are asked to pay exorbitant amounts for relatively straightforward tasks like conveyancing. They have also helpfully ensured that you hire both a solicitor AND a barrister to initiate or defend court proceedings. This raises costs and IMHO often delivers poor value to clients as the expensive barrister that you entrust to argue your case will be less familiar with it than your solicitor. A frankly silly and near feudal practice that we should have been grown-up enough to leave behind. We’ve diverged other aspects of our legal system from the UK model and in some cases it looks like we did it to spite ourselves. I feel this way about the so-called “subjective test” but that’s a digression.
Back to solicitors! There are many talented solicitors in the country who do a good job and give good advice. It’s the same as any professional really. Whatever my feelings about the costs of legal advice in this country, the outcome of any court case can never be reduced to a simple formula of “I paid a lot of money, felt I was in the right, therefore I should have won!” It just doesn’t work like that. Clients are people and people mis-recollect and mis-represent. Equally, you could get a judge on a bad day. If you don’t get exactly what you want it may not be the solicitor’s fault.
The problem I have with the aforementioned website is that you can clearly see that some complaints could be due to clients misunderstanding legal issues, being plain wrong or blaming the solicitor for the entire legal system. There are undoubtedly many insightful and reasonable criticisms on the site. However, when you look at the “Hall of Shame” you see some frankly unrelated political rants against particular solicitors. These devalue the basis for the site. They are so far off topic and perhaps defamatory they should NEVER have been published in my opinion. It’s amazing when people can be so unbalanced in their criticism that it makes you want to defend the legal profession 🙂
If you have a problem with a legal professional then complain to the law society. This involves formulating a complaint rather than a rant. You’d be amazed what might happen. Whatever people think they DO attempt to police their profession and will strike off or otherwise sanction a solicitor if they have acted unethically or unprofessionally. It would be nice, however, if they had to publicise the results of any case where their panel finds against the solicitor. That would perhaps cut out a lot of over-billing. If you’re not happy with the results from the Law Society then you could always go to the media.