THE SATURDAY ESSAY: What is to be done with the lawyers?

We have brakes to stop progress in Britain. They’re called solicitors.

Of all the people who get in the way of things getting better in Britain – the civil servants, bankers, bean-counters, legislators and media gargoyles – none can top the lawyer for sheer destructive, bp-raising self-interest and pedantic idiocy. The problem is that they remain an immovable object in the way of progress: self-regulated by the dubious Law Society, allowed to encourage litigation using advertising, charging by the hour when they can, and an absolutely dominant influence in the legislature.

Now however, things have become even worse purely because it’s slightly easier to sue them for incompetence and malpractice than it used to be. New rules from the Solicitors’ Regulatory Authority (SRA) spell out why and how the legals can be held accountable for mistakes, financial fiddles, and overly aggressive pursuit of libel claims. Some of the rules look very grand in writing, but they’re largely ignored in practice….as we have seen with Lord McAlpine and his best friend Andrew Reid. However, the lawyer being by nature paranoid, to incompetence and criminality we can now add anal caution as their normal mode of procedure.

When I bought our current house, the lawyer completely failed to spot a planning permission in the adjoining field. A large suburban house duly appeared there, and so we decided to sue the solicitor for dereliction. The next lawyer we approached agreed that it was an open and shut case, but told us “They will deny it for a few months and send a lot of letters back and forth, all of which will cost you money. Then they’ll hand the case over to their liability insurers, and they in turn will run you round the houses for several years, until a Court case finally takes place and you win. The damages will be laughably inadequate, and you’ll be out of pocket to the tune of around ten grand. Do you still want to sue them?” Of course, we didn’t.

Yesterday afternoon, after a marathon process lasting over three months, I finally exchanged contracts on the very same house, because I need to raise cash and fund some life changes. Last October, once a price had been agreed, I told everyone involved that I wanted to exchange before Christmas and then have a long completion by the end of February.

The first thing that happened was nothing. This always seems to be the case when you instruct solicitors and give them the name of the purchaser’s solicitors: nothing occurs beyond an exchange of archaically worded letters.

After a fortnight of this, I got a letter from my solicitor with a long list of things I needed to find out, and then supply to him. I ran around like a demented duckling and gave them all to him.

The next thing that happened was nothing. So I rang to say hi, it’s mid November, the goose is getting fat, are we in shape? The other solicitors had not yet replied to his letter about a longer completion. I asked him to email them. They said they were busy studying the deeds and the land registry documents.

The next thing that happened was pre-Christmas shopping and office parties, with no sign of an exchange of contracts. However, I’d intervened again to remind everyone about the schedule. This seemed to occasion a very brief flurry of activity producing a list of questions from the other side. They were all answered and then everyone got drunk for two weeks.

In the New Year – eight days into the New Year to be precise – the other side replied to say we hadn’t answered their questions properly and here are some more questions. I instructed my chap to ask was the longer completion OK. What we got back was a long and concerned letter asking did we have planning permission for the satellite dish on our chimney pot.

The next thing that happened was something all about nothing. You have a skylight facing East, said their solicitor, and we can’t see anything about it in the conversion permission documents. I suggested this might be because they were looking at the South-facing elevation plans. Yes that’s all well and good they countered, but we can’t see one and yet you have one. This is worrying.

So my Estate Agent and the original developer shlepped down to the Council’s planning office, pulled out all the relevant plans and sent them off, having first taken the precaution of circling all the sketches and prose and stamps of Council approval showing and talking about skylights. But the purchasers’ solicitor was still not satisfied: he wanted a written statement from the Council saying they’d approved the skylight.

It then fell to people who weren’t solicitors to ring up my purchaser and ask whether this was a deal-breaker, and if so why. No, he said, it wasn’t a deal-breaker. My solicitor sent another letter asking his solicitor to stick the skylight up his bottom, with yet another request to confirm the longer completion date.

There followed another period of nothing. By now, the completion question had been rendered largely redundant by the fact that we were well past the original exchange date, but hadn’t actually exchanged as such. But then, yesterday morning, we finally got a reply about completion: the other side wanted it by February 4th….just 13 days away. Fuck off, I gently suggested. It’s February 4th or the deal’s off they replied.

This is what had transpired. Two buyers back down the chain, a solicitor had waited until now to say his client wanted to register his son for a school in the area, and early February was the last chance to do so for the next academic year. It seems the client had made this clear to his solicitor, but nobody else involved had been informed.

Thus a deal involving some £4million in real estate was about to be scuppered (after vast expenditures by all those involved who weren’t solicitors) because one solicitor had spent a fortnight fretting about an eight-inch wide skylight, and another had failed to mention probably the most important timing factor in the entire deal. But this didn’t faze the legals in any way. They dug in their heels and said February 4th or else.

By now it was 10.30 in the morning. I was a little upset. I asked my solicitor to agree to the terms on one condition: exchange of contracts today, or the deal’s off. What followed was an extraordinary conversation in which I was informed of how silly I’d look when I had to back down. I said “But I’m not going to.” Did I really mean it? I was asked. Yes, I said. I’m reluctant to take those instructions, he said. You want I should ring them, I asked. He rang them. Oooooh no, they said, there was no chance of exchange today, don’t be ridiculous. Then you’re not buying my house, I said. Ha-ha they said. Exchange by 5.30 tonight or I will take it off the market at 5.31, I said. This is the last you’ll hear from me until my solicitor confirms exchange has taken place.

The exchange took place at 3.15.

If solicitors ran the economy, nothing would ever be approved, made, delivered or sold. No takeovers would ever achieve closure (I’ve never in 35 years closed such a deal before three in the morning or without somebody threatening to take at least one legal hostage) and nobody would ever do anything differently. If solicitors ran the world, we’d all be driving steamrollers – and one of the most important jobs in the country would be walking in front of vehicles with a red flag.

But the problem is, although solicitors don’t run anything, they can stop everything. They will hold up any transaction in order to rack up more hours and send more letters. They will filibuster out any legislation designed to make them efficient or accountable. They will demand written indemnification for anything involving them taking responsibility. And they will strangle at birth any idea designed to reduce their ability to intervene in every activity we undertake.

During the previous Labour Administration, lawyers were 670% over-represented in the House of Commons. In the second Blair Cabinet, they were 3800% over-represented. Lawyers rarely make the laws, but they always monitor and frame them. This means that more laws happen all the time (37,400 between 1997 and 2010) because more laws mean more lawyers. It also means that most tax and legal bills are incompetently drafted, and so more lawyers are then called in as consultants to discuss ways to put right laws they got wrong in the first place. And all at an hourly rate to make your mouth water.

At the moment, it is too expensive for most people to sue lawyers, impossible to do deals without lawyers, and impossible to die without lawyers. In Lawyerworld, there are five-lane highways everywhere, but they all lead to a tiny toll-bridge somewhere in North Wales, and the toll-bridge is owned, manned and administered by lawyers. According to the Guardian, the number of solicitors is growing at 3.6 times the rate of the population in England and Wales, and there are over a third more lawyers than there were a decade ago. You can’t avoid the buggers, and you can’t get any law changed in a way that will mean less work for them.

If we had a sealed-bids system of property purchase throughout the UK, it is estimated that at least three weeks could be shaved off the time it takes to buy a house. So we don’t have a sealed bids system. The overwhelming majority of ordinary citizens think lawyers advertising on TV is unhealthy and exacerbates the litigious nature of our society. So more and more lawyers are advertising on television. “If you and your spouse hate each other like poison and want to get out of the hellhole you call a marriage, you’ve come to the right place,” begins the commercial from Steve Miller of DivorceEZ, a Florida law firm, concluding 30 seconds later, “You’re on your way to getting rid of that vermin you call a spouse.” Somewhere – everywhere – there are lawyers willing to argue that this sort of thing is good for the economy and healthy for society.

The truth is that a majority of lawyers are cautious, self-serving stuffed shirts who contribute little or nothing to our culture beyond  discouragement of personal responsibility and the philosophical approach to unhappy events: shit happens, get on with your life. Everything lawyers do dwells on the past with no thought for the future, and no grasp of the bigger picture beyond their fees. A level of complexity and factory-fitted incompetence is added to every situation to ensure the continuity of work-supply. The net result of all this is a society terrified to move anything forward or make anything with nuts in it.

Lawyers have to introduce new laws and encourage blame, because without that they’d have to start eating each other. You think that’s just me being silly don’t you? Well read this from a simple Google query about suing lawyers:

Solicitors Negligence –

Specialists in Suing Solicitors & Other Professionals. Give us a call

Need to Sue Your Lawyer? –

Received Bad Professional Advice? Get Compensation. No Win No Fee.

There are 12.8 million results for ‘suing lawyers’, and almost all of them are like the above. But this last line says it all:
Need Compensation from a Lawyer?
Consult our expert solicitors now
Who sues the lawyers and what is to be done about the lawyers? The answer is ‘Consult our expert solicitors now’. I give up.

63 thoughts on “THE SATURDAY ESSAY: What is to be done with the lawyers?

  1. No administration will dare tackle the legal profession, it would be suicide.
    Oh, what’s the difference between a rat and a lawyer ?
    There are some things even a rat won’t do.


  2. Boxer Rebellion!
    I recently sold my place privately. (Hate Estate Agents) The most frustrating part was other buyers solicitors would not speak to me. (conflict of interest) Yet they will speak to an “agent” that is straight out of school with no qualifications or experience.
    It seems to me that there are too much BS and too many fingers in the pie, and that pie is MINE.
    My advice is be bloody minded and independent, they hate it, which always puts a smile on my face.
    If anyone is interested try Sarah Beenys Tepilo site, it’s very good.


  3. What a splendid dissertation on the subject of lawyers.

    When speaking with the solicitor involved in our last house purchase, I remarked casually that the entire legal industry is based on mistrust. When he bridled at that I said that if people could be relied upon to speak truthfully to one another and if a deal agreed on a handshake was guaranteed to complete, he and countless others would be out of a job. What then followed was an impassioned monologue on the subtle nuances of the English language and the nature of fibbing (about which he seemed to know an awful lot) but, because I am a peasant, I sort of lost interest after the first three seconds.

    When my young nephew was discussing his career prospects with me years ago, he wondered whether he could be a lawyer. I pointed out that he could fool people for a while but, inevitably they would look into his eyes and see the strength of his character and the integrity of his soul, they would observe his simple honesty in all his dealings and they would know that this man could not possibly be a lawyer. He went on to become a builder of unimpeachable repute.


  4. “It seemed to me that if the lawyers failed to do their duty, they ought to pay people for waiting upon them, instead of making them pay for it.”
    ― R.D. Blackmore, Lorna Doone: A Romance of Exmoor

    Why do lawyers, banks, gas comp., councils, gov. dept. etc. etc. etc. all seem to think, your time is free?


  5. I read you blogs occasionally but don’t leave a comment but felt compelled to on this occasion because I so agree with you. On a personal basis , they have let me down in every property and land conveyance I have ever undertaken over the years and they have forced me (on 2 occasion) to take expensive bridging finance. In my commercial life they have fleeced me and achieved less than I probably would have had I had the time to tackle and focus on the issue myself. . When I have worked alongside side them in a corporate structure I have found them scared, timid and willing to roll-over if threatened with negative publicity and yet incredibly stupid (engaging a QC to ‘fight’ a losing battle and rack up £300,000 of legal costs to our company to establish that they have big egos and divorced from what is actually ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ . Well done to you for forcing things along.

    I nearly forgot. I got £1500 back off a major media law firm from my wasted £10k when I asked them to get some money due to my daughter on royalties etc. They failed and I got it myself via the Performing Rights Society…..they hadn’t even approached them !


  6. The solution is simple, work directly with the buyer of your property. Yes, in the States the Real Estate agents will be upset, but so what. The money to pay them is coming out of my (sellers) pocket. I am so glad that our lawyers get involved on closing day unless something big needs to happen.


  7. Pingback: Killing NHS “good for Britain’s recovery” claims Health Secretary | The Slog. 3-D bollocks deconstruction

  8. From The
    “A judge has hit out at the participants in a four-year dispute over the construction of Wembley Stadium after they racked up £22m in costs.
    Judge slams Wembley dispute’s £22m costs totalA judge has hit out at the participants involved in a four-year dispute over the construction of Wembley Stadium after they racked up £22m in costs, including £1m on photocopying.
    Australian construction company Multiplex was awarded £6.2m in damages from steel firm Cleveland Bridge following a contractual dispute over delays in the stadium’s construction.
    Mr Justice Jackson said: “That level of expenditure far exceeds the sums which are seriously in dispute. Each party has thrown away ­golden opportunities to ­settle this litigation upon favourable terms.”
    The lawyers on the case shared a total legal bill of £20m. Clifford Chance and Four New Square silk Roger Stewart QC are understood to have shared more than £12m in legal costs during the ;four ;years ;they ­represented Multiplex.
    Reid ;Minty, ;which has ;now ;merged ;with ­McGrigors, was brought in by Cleveland for the final two years of ­litigation and, along with Adrian Williamson
    QC of Keating Chambers, notched up £6.5m in fees.
    Walker Morris and Hugh Tomlinson QC of Matrix Chambers, sidelined by Cleveland after losing a preliminary round in 2006, are thought to have billed £2m.”

    Cherie’s Matrix gets 2mil for losing.
    BUT 1 million for photocopying?


  9. You can do your own conveyancing…I always have…though it drives the other participant’s solicitor mad.

    I used to know someone completely foul…..
    His day job was representing solicitors on behalf of the Law Society when they had failed to shut up people with complaints….and his reaction to my distaste was to try to blacken my character in our somewhat restricted expat circle…

    But if you want real road blocks to progress, try a French notaire.


  10. A firm of solicitors who had worked for my In-laws for many years, dealt with my Mother-in Laws will. I inspected the document they produced setting out her assets and liabilities for probate. There were 39 mistakes. This included three different dates of death all wrong) and columns wrongly added up and totals wrongly transferred to other columns. When I emailed the solicitor he said that was impossible as the information was put into their system and the programme automatically added columns and transferred totals. I was right so every form they had filled in for clients must have been wrong. This was proved as I was told this was the first probate they had which came back without corrections!! They tried to send final payment and bill with shares, PSB (and something else which I have forgotten now) totalling £15K + still outstanding. They also said they did not hold the deeds although I had proof they had them. On the third time of pressing them they were finally found. At the end they billed me for 50% more than was agreed but I made them charge only 75% of the original quote as I had done more work than they had. Incompetent.


  11. Set a time limit for the deal to be concluded. Then tell him that beyond the agreed date the time charges will be reversed and he will be deducting from his fee thereafter (quite soon you will be making money off him)


  12. Tell him you will also be charging for evey phone call you have to make to him, and then phone daily, then hourly.


  13. Oh Christ-here we go again!
    Client whingeing that he didn’t get exactly what he wanted because guess what?-other people in the chain (at least 3 buyers as far as I can make out) wanted exactly what THEY wanted which all conflicted.
    And whose fault is it? Why, the solicitor of course who just didn’t use that magic wand he’s got which makes other people do EXACTLY what his client wants.
    Surprisingly enough, like everyone else in business, solicitors want deals to go ahead as quickly as possible. Why-because then they get their fees quicker! Bloody amazing isn’t it? Who would have thought it? Obviously not the Slog!
    In conveyancing, on a sale the sellers solicitor sends out a full package of documents (contract, title, replies to standard and likely enquiries). The buyers solicitor may then raise other enquiries (e.g. the skylight-in respect of which you no doubt alerted your solicitor when you instructed him-no, thought not!). The buyer may also aler his solicitor to specific points he wants raised. For example about planning permission in a neighbouring field! However, he will only be arsed to do that once he has a mortgage offer (cos otherwise its a waste of time-see?). Not to mention some clients who game the system (i won’t answer quickly cos that gets it all to my timescale).
    And the mortgage offer itself may have specific points raised by the surveyor who is being ultra cautious (because lenders sued so many to try to get back their losses from their OWN RECKLESS LENDING as also happened to solicitors). Naturally, there may be other problems with mortgage offers (oh, we’re just checking one or two things says the lender-what things?-can’t tell you -its with the under-writer!)
    So multiply that by 3 (often more) and see how quickly things go. And all that bloody nonsense for what princely fee did you pay? Then to get a whinge about someone who was trying to do their best for you? No thanks, I’m glad I’m out of it.
    Next time do it yourself-no doubt it’ll go so much faster.
    Commercial clients are always the best. They and we know what they want. When I was newly qualified, I was explaining an arcane legal point to a commercial client. He simply said “look son, I just want the f**king money, and I want it on f**king Friday, right?” Yep, got that-and so did he. No emotion about it, no whinges, no bottling out when we gave an ultimatum (and then blame the solicitor cos the bluff didn’t work!). Just the f**king money, on f**king Friday.
    As for advertising, all this nonsense came about because the OFT said solicitors should be allowed to pay referral fees and threatened action to enforce it. The Law Societ bottled out against the members wishes-and thus came Claims Management Companies, mass advertsing and the whole bloody mess (google The Accident Group!).
    But don’t worry there won’t be independent solicitors much longer-they’ll all be owned by banks, insurers, and other spivs (whih is what the SRA want). Best of luck getting independent advice then lads-you’ll bloody need it.


  14. Pingback: John Ward – The Saturday Essay : What Is To Be Done With The Lawyers? – 19 January 2013 | Lucas 2012 Infos

  15. Another excellent article which goes a long way to explaining what makes solicitors tick. I have always maintained that solicitors over complicate the law for their own ends (libel law being a classic example) and the observation that the legal profession being stuffed with over cautious, self serving twits is spot on. There are some excellent lawyers too but sadly the shortcomings of the many tarnish the few who are any good.

    If you want proof that JW’s article is spot on, reading the Law Society Gazette blogs will provide a helpful insight. According to the solicitors who post there, the SRA regulations do not apply to them and everything which goes wrong is the client’s fault. The stuff has to be read to be believed.


  16. FFS, don’t you get it?
    The SRA is exactly like the FSA-a bureaucracy which is great at producing endless detailed regulations which can only be totally complied with by huge monolithic firms and therefore allows them to penalise small firms, while the real problems (tick box attitudes to clients, endless long letters, overcharging for non-work etc.) are not tackled.
    Just like the FSA there will be a huge disaster in law, but all the regulations will have been complied with-and who would have thought this would happen? Well, just like banking (and come to think of it, Social Services with the Baby P/Shoosmith case) anyone with any understanding of professional duties-which cannot be supplied by some moron ticking boxes on a computer. It all needs judgement by someone who knows WTF they are doing-which you aren’t going to get anymore.
    There-that’s exactly like many of the posts on the Gazette website-and yes they are correct.
    Happy? No, me neither.
    Yes, some soilicitors are /were shit-most try to do a good job but like me many are just giving up!


  17. I just had a quick look at the WLL solicitors site. Wouldn’t touch them with a very long barge pole. They can’t even spell correctly on their window to the world
    “…to be RENOUND for being the very best in what we do and to win. We have a FORMIDDABLE…”

    Two spelling mistakes in consecutive sentences aaarghh! What are we dumbing down to?


  18. FFS MickC no we don’t get it, but you certainly do think like every lawyer I’ve ever met, with just the 2 exceptions in 64 years.


  19. MickC

    That sounds like a bunch of nonsense.

    So, you are saying that only huge law firms can comply with treating clients and other parties fairly and with decency and respect? And smaller law firms have difficulty complying because the rules are too detailed or onerous.

    Two things I would say about that:

    I thought that part of a solicitor’s job was to deal with complex cases, e.g interpreting and drawing up detailed contracts. Therefore, why do these firms not make an effort to try to understand and work on ways to be compliant with the rules?

    Secondly, I have read many of the rules myself – they seem fairly straight forward to me. What part of ‘you should not use your position to gain an unfair advantage of other parties’ is so difficult to understand and comply with?


  20. One of my oligarch bosses beat a solicitor up in his office,he then traipsed over to the other solicitor and beat up the staff with a baseball bat.After being treated in hospital and having the boss arrested,out on bail,he turned up at their respective homes.Shortly after the property deal went ahead and they are still awaiting payment of their bill and the charges were dropped-funny that!


  21. I thought this feature in Law Society Gazette was fun. And in defence of MickC and his legal friends, it shows that the legal and justice system in England and Wales is not that bad. After all – we could all have been unlucky enough to be in Ireland.

    Anyway it describes the career of an Irish Media Lawyer who has been in the news lately (Louis Walsh and a few other cases) Have a read of his ‘career high’. Obtaining 100K for two QCs who were alleged to have had a bun fight in a cake shop. You could not make it up.

    Who? Paul Tweed, 57, media law senior partner at London, Belfast and Dublin firm Johnsons.

    Career high: ‘In 1987, I acted for two QCs accused of fighting over the last remaining chocolate eclair in a cake shop. The paper that printed the false story was ordered to pay them £50,000 each, which in 1987 was a very great deal of money.’


  22. I don’t agree, both notaires I went through when buying property had the sales sewn up before the dates they estimated, if you want things to happen in France, being polite and acknowleging that they ( or any fonctionaire ) are the experts works wonders, of course this assumes you can speak French.


  23. As an ex-conveyancing lawyer with 20 years in the game…I can echo all of MikeC’s points. The secret of successful conveyancing, for both lawyer and client, is in the management of the client’s expectations. This was painfully obviously not done in the case of the Slog’s unhappy experiences.

    I would like to add one single technical note…the likely reason why searches failed to reveal the planning permission on the adjoining field is because searches are , routinely, only made against the property that you are buying….NOT adjoining ones, or ones over the road, or at the end of the road, or at the end of the next road…for obvious reasons. This important reality was almost certainly clearly stated in a long letter that the Slog probably decided to speed read while cursing his sloppy solicitors.

    I still know a couple of good conveyancing lawyers if anyone wants to know. Having said that… you can still do your own conveyancing if you are not getting a mortgage. Good Luck with that. Given that your legal fees should not be more than about £500 for an ordinary house purchase these days the actual legal costs of conveyancing adjusted for inflation have decreased dramatically over the past 30 years. They represent damn good value for money.
    If your conveyancing solicitor has cocked up and you can prove it…you should be able to obtain compensation from the Solicitors Compensation Fund without you even needing a lawyer if you are reasonably literate.

    Any more questions?


  24. General comment to all
    The first duty of a professional is to the client. In other words, no matter that it disadvantages the professional, he must give disinterested advice to the client-not advice that ensures the most profit, not advice that helps his mates or any such bollocks that is fairly common nowadays.
    Yes, there are solicitors who do that-especially of the modern variety-just as there are MPs who are in it for themselves. But some are not. As in anything, it is up to the customer to to judge which is which.
    What has happened is that there has, in general, been an attempt to replace values and ethics with rules and regulations. Guess what?-it doesn’t f@ing well work! People without the ethics and values are perfectly capable of “complying” with the rules whilst evading the spirit-a fine example is the banking world-once a profession, now just a bunch of salesmen looking out for their commission.
    I believe their are many solicitors who do not put their profit above the clients interests-most of my few friend in the legal profesion do not. Many do so-but the baby is being turfed firmly out with the bathwater.
    I know perfectly well I won’t get support here-but it is worth the effort to do so. Once the good have gone and we are left with the profit at any cost to the client lot, there will be no independent legal profession-trust me. There never was profit in taking on potentially losing but just cases-but in future no-one will take them because the individual people who would do so will not be there.
    All sneers welcome!


  25. Do you not believe there are solicitors who actually want to do a good job at a proper and reasonable cost?
    I know some-having been around for length of time, why don’t you?


  26. I have had similar positive experiences with the French system here in Quebec. When I came back from Africa some 15 years ago, I started looking for a house on August 2, had agreed to buy one by August 8, went on holiday for three weeks, met with the seller in a Notary’s office toward’s the end of August and moved into the house on September 1. I have also bought and sold three houses in Ontario and it was no more difficult than buying and selling a car. And yes, I speak French.


  27. Again..I would agree. I gave up in frustration not at the cllients, who , by and large were great and almost invariably understanding if you kept them properly informed…(real dickheads usually never get themselves organised enough to buy a house) or at the other solicitors on the other side of the transactions or even the endlessly meddling estate agents but because of the endless slew of pretty much pointless regulations and procedures, case management requirements and money laundering rules handed down to us from on high and certainly not dreamed up by those of us actually doing conveyancing.
    Experience and common sense were being crowded out by these and endless new complications being dreamed up by mortgage companies desperate to lend more than was wise but determined to put all risk onto the solicitors involved, while dumbing down the quality of their own staff to a level which defies description…..
    Conveyancing was a reasonably satisfying job when I started in 1987. When I left it in 2007, it sucked.
    P.S. I had worked at several other jobs before I became a lawyer, which at that time was quite unusual and I like to think it gave me a better perspective on things.


  28. I bought and sold two houses in Scotland and found it fairly quick and very easy. The first house I bought in England was fine too but when it came to selling it and buying another it turned into a complete nightmare. Used to the Scottish system I found it dreadful that sales were called off at the last minute, chains broke down and you could never be sure you had actually sold until the contracts were exchanged, often under duress to reduce the price a bit for spurious reasons. My lawyer was fine but it was all very slow, no matter what happens I will never move again, it was far more stressful than being diagnosed with cancer.


  29. @MickC

    Not personally ,I am too old and spent. But I would like the info so I can pass it on to ex-colleagues who are still in the profession.
    Notwithstanding the imminence of “Tesco Law” I think that good small firms of solicitors can not only survive but prosper. Soon people will realise that when they use these giant ( very cheap) conveyancing firms they are rarely actually dealing with real lawyers at all. I suspect a good proportion of the profession’s bad press comes from these establishments.


  30. John, Solicitors do not study “the deeds and the land registry documents”.

    That is booted to the office staff, who usually get paid minimum wage or close to. I know this for a fact.


  31. I would make one last comment. A friend of mine has worked arranging Public Finance Initiatives (not as a lawyer) and has told me horror stories of the monumental lawyer-fest, mutual remuneration goings-on and feeding frenzy that that has become. I fear that there are some bad things happening in the Law in the upper echelons of the commercial/banking branches of it.
    Please believe me….not all lawyers are the same.
    Oh, and I genuinely believe that the relative incorruptibility of the English legal profession has prevented us from having a repossession meltdown on the lines of what has happened in the USA. Well, so far, anyway!


  32. When I was doing conveyancing the senior partner would have regarded me as negligent, as would the Law Society and any Mortgagee, if I had not personally examined the title to any property I was dealing with. Your fact is bogus.


  33. Incidentally, I once bought a house outright for cash (early 1980’s). I instructed the estate agent in writing that I wanted vacant posession, contracts exchanged within 21 days of the date of this letter, or I would pull out without a second thought.

    It went through in just over a fortnight.


  34. By mentioning the USA you are being disingenious. The entire apparatus is different in the USA – such as the ability they have to chuck the keys in and walk away.


  35. The fatcat lawyer lobby is exceptionally powerful, possibly, after the bankers, the most powerful in the country.
    It’s particularly so in the labour party, (I’m sure we all know what cherie Blair does for a living, but Millbands’ wife is a barrister as well) but the other lot are under their thumb as well. Likewise, the trial lawyer lobby is the most powerful lobby in the US Democratic party, but the republicans never f*ck with them.
    Part of the reason for their power, of course, in the UK, is that they go on and become judges.

    One government policy U-turn i’m daily expecting is the restriction on judicial reviews. Labour planned something similar in 2004, and walked into a firestorm of opposition from the legal industry. Judges and QCs were foaming at the mouth and screeching revolution. It would have directly impacted their finances in a big way, primarily through lowered legal aid asylum fees. They got their way and labour dropped its’ plans.

    Naturally, immigration judicial reviews have rocketed since. A very nice little earner for the more junior barristers in chambers, ensuring the big boys don’t have to share the really juicy briefs.


  36. One or two steps above vivisectionists, for the most part, though exceptions are encountered from time to time, for which we can be most thankful, I suppose.


  37. John, you pointed out that lawyers were 670% over-represented in government. They also have a win/lose right/wrong all-the-ducks-in-a-row mindset. It is not surprising that ‘dead slow/stop’ is the result. Farmers get things done, even when I thought it impossible, engineers can balance efficiency/cost/effectiveness very nicely, kindy teachers can see the future, child psychologists can see the past. Isn’t it incredible that to advance in any profession you need qualifications, but none are required to govern the nation?
    I would love to see voters judge their candidates for what they can offer from their past experiences rather than just vote the party. Ignore the brand, choose the value.
    Maybe a few less lawyers in parliament?


  38. @don’tbelievewhatyoureadintheDailyMail
    Then your niece is being exploited by a bad solicitor who is going to come a cropper very soon. Do not take a single complaint by your feeling-hard-done-by relative and apply it universally across the profession! All Doctors are not like Harold Shipman, you know!


  39. A bit harsh to call me disingenuous when I express a genuine belief, but you do have a valid point. However, to a certain extent that actually reinforces mine when I say that the legal profession played a part in English lenders being exposed to less risk. I used to make good and sure my clients knew exactly what could happen to them and in what circumstances their home could be taken away from them and the consequences.
    I might in turn accuse you of being disingenuous if you are implying that walking away from a mortgage in the USA is consequence and trauma free. You can walk away from one here too, you know, but you had better be really broke because the lender can pursue you for 12 years for any balance left outstanding after the house is sold.
    I never said the entire apparatus was the same. Lawyers are hardly involved in the USA Real Estate business. That was sort of also my point.


  40. If you had come to me with cash (not literally, that would be a nightmare ) and assumed all the risk and I could have had you ready in 48 hours.
    You: I want to buy this house.
    Me: Do you want me to check it out for you in any way?
    You: No, I just want to buy it.
    Me: Sign this saying you will not sue me if there turns out to be a major problem with the house.
    You: Er……maybe you better check it out.


  41. It had all the checks done on it, surveys etc – I just wasn’t going to let them sit there pisssing about at their own speed.


  42. Jack, it is a very prestigious form of solicitors in north west England – and all the office staff do it for all of the partners.


  43. MickC
    Re hourly rate, do u think I jest fell of the f**king Christmas tree?
    Paying a lawyer by hourly rate is like giving Tony Blair access to Fort Knox.


  44. The legal system has much to answer for regarding divorce settlements.

    These sharks spit poison into the ears of their clients, encouraging them to seek acrimony where there was none and extend the process for as long as they can milk said clients.

    As for the civil courts, they’re so hand in glove with magistrates and officials it’s untrue.


  45. Can you really trust Solicitors?

    Some time ago I had a case against a dentist that messed my teeth up, so I reported him to the medical board but they stuck up for the dentist and it went in the dentist favour. I appealed against the decision, got a solicitor and took dentist to court; but, my solicitor didn’t represent me at the court’s hearing, saying; he wouldn’t get played from the legal aid dept. to represent me at a hearing; but dentist had 2 solicitors at hearing representing him. Anyway, with all the evidence I had (including hospital x-ray, which hospital didn’t want to release, so court order was issued for its release), I put my case over so well and won. The dentist was charged with neglect and was told that he had to go back to dental school, else his licence would have been taken away. Now, at the settlement my solicitor didn’t do enough to get the best settlement figure. He put forward a settlement figure but a lower figure was offered and he advised me to accept it. But what he didn’t advise me was, that I can sue the dentist practice for negligence; he just took his cut of the settlement and ran.

    Many years later; I was involved in a car accident, where my car was a write-off. My insurance appointed their solicitor to process the claim from the third party insurance company. At first settlement figure, the solicitor advised me that it was a good figure and I should accept it, but I refused and asked for a higher figure. A higher figure was offered and solicitor advised me (again) to accept it, as if I don’t and take it to court I’ll stand the chance of losing everything. So I took his advice and settled.

    After my experience with those 2 solicitors; I kept thinking…were they offered back-handers by the other parties insurance not to pursue my case further? About 2 year later after the settlement of my car accident claim, my suspicion got the better of me, so I decided to challenge the solicitor as I felt something wasn’t right with the second settlement offered, because of what I was told by the staff that was in correspondence with me. Anyway, after exchange of couple of emails pointing out my suspicions, I then discovered the solicitor had done me out of over £500, to which they offered to pay me. But before giving me the money, I was asked to sign a declaration that the claim was finally settled and I wouldn’t take the matter further.

    Why do solicitors advise their clients to settle for lower figures that is put forward, even though they know themselves they can get more? Could it be that they’re all in it together?


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