I’m glad to see a few common sense posts at the end here. The fact is that this was not somewhere where people went to have their legitimate complaints aired in public. If it was, and the complaints were true and fair, there would be little if anything any of the solicitors could have done about it. The point here is that the solicitors had no means of replying to or correcting the posts. Even if they had been given the opportunity, their duty of confidentiality to their clients prevented them from disclosing the details to the site unless the complainant agreed.
If you have a complaint about your solicitor, you have plenty of means of redress. You should first complain to the firm. Many people regard this as a waste of time, but if you were an independent supplier in the IT industry and someone had a problem with something you had done, would you be happy if they published your details on a website as being unreliable (or worse) instead of asking you to put it right?
Second, there is the SRA. If you doubt its willingness to deal with errant solicitors, have a look at the decisions on its website. If the matter is serious enough it will be referred to the solicitors disciplinary tribunal which has wider powers.
If you want redress because you have suffered loss as a result of a solicitor’s actions or negligence, there are plenty of solicitors who specialise in claiming against other solicitors. This is going to be more difficult from later this year, because of the restrictions on conditional fee agreements, but that is not the fault of the lawyers. As someone mentioned above, all solicitors have to have insurance. If you have a legitimate claim, you will get redress.
Claims against solicitors in court, or complaints to the SRA are dealt with publicly. The results of complaints and many judgments are published online. If you want to check up on a solicitor before instructing him, go to the SRA’s web site.
There are crooked solicitors out there. Not many, but some. There are far more negligent solicitors out there, and most of those are negligent through carelessness or oversight rather than recklessness or fraud. Few lawyers will go through a whole career without a complaint of some sort, but that is usually because of the complexity of what we do, not because we are cashing in knowingly against a client’s interests. I, in common with most lawyers, rely on clients returning to me in future, and ripping them off does far more harm to me in the long run than doing my best for them.
I looked at the sfh site after the firm I then worked for was approached by Kordowski with a view to him referring potential negligence claims to them (in return for a hefty fee to go to K, obviously). The firm declined the offer because after looking at the site, it appeared that nearly all of the complaints related to the following:
1. the solicitor’s fees. All solicitors’ clients can have these assessed by the court if they wish, and are given information about how to do so at the beginning of the instruction, but that does not involve a claim or a complaint unless the solicitor refuses to deal with it, or
2. the client losing his case. No matter how good or bad the solicitor representing him, one side has to lose in every contested case - it does not mean that the solicitor was negligent, or
3. pure, unsubstantiated vitriol.
If there were legitimate complaints on the site, I could not work out what they were, and I spend my life looking for legitimate complaints amongst reams of irrelevant drivel.
Yes, I am a lawyer. No I have never been listed on sfh, or (as far as I am aware) any other such site.