View Full Version : Soliciting Help…

4th Aug 2006, 22:05
As some fascinating legal issues are aired here from time to time, I wonder if anyone has the knowledge or experience of how to tackle this situation. Essentially it boils down to: how do I get a solicitor to finish a job that should have been completed ages ago? Is going to the Law Society really a practical option for tackling this lethargic individual, or do they automatically sympathise with their chums and fail to act?
I’ve never had to try and act against a solicitor, as I’ve found they tend to do the job and charge a fortune, so they’re happy. This one just seems happy to go on forever giving excuses and waffling about achievements to date and his 40 years experience etc, etc. The bare bones of the assignment are that we gave him a probate job, settling an estate. When probate was done by a different solicitor for my father’s death (a very similar estate) the whole job was completed in less than four months.
This guy has been going for 14 months now. At the seven-month stage he said he’d be finished in a week or so. Recently, at the 12-month stage he’s written that he is “slowly but surely coming to the end”. After all his excuses along the way when chased up, I’m tempted to hasten his end with a baseball bat, but can anyone come up with a way to actually get the job finished? Legally, I suppose…

4th Aug 2006, 23:02
Is going to the Law Society really a practical option for tackling this lethargic individual, or do they automatically sympathise with their chums and fail to act?

Not at all. They take complaints very seriously.

Send him one last letter threatening a complaint to the Law Society. You might just find it gives him the kick up the backside he needs.

5th Aug 2006, 08:07

The question of the lawyer's fees springs to mind.
I could be quite wrong on this but I rather thought that lawyers these days like to charge a percentage on the total estate for winding up a probate application.
If that's the case then, presumably, the lawyer's procrastination will not cost you any more than the original agreed percentage. However, if he is going to charge for his time spent on the case; you might be in for a hefty bill generated more by his, shall we say, incompetence, than anything else.
I think that I'd bring this fee matter into the equation and, as you see fit and as is appropriate, raise the subject in any letter you may send to The Law Society.:)

5th Aug 2006, 12:17
Many thanks to you both for your ideas on this. Wedge, have you actually used the Law Society to get results? Their website looks impressive, but I do wonder how effective they would be. I don’t want to threaten him with a toothless watchdog, and have him take even longer once he’s riled.
Cavortingcheetah, thanks for your input also. The fees aren’t percentage based. This is one area we’ve kept very quiet about, as, in an early letter he said “my fee will be XXX and although this may vary a little, any significant change to the costs will be advised, with the possibility of interim billing”. To us this is relatively good news (in black and white) as he’s not said a word about costs since. However, we’re not holding our breath on the fees issue.
Although he has ably demonstrated his incompetence to date, such as entirely missing a four figure amount in an ISA account, sending important documents to the wrong address etc, I suspect he will be VERY competent at compiling an inflated account for his dismal efforts. We can deal with that via the Remuneration Certificate scheme (Law Society review of charges) if and when that arises. Let’s hope not.

5th Aug 2006, 12:40
If stiched up with inflated bill just apply to the county court taxation officer to reveiw, it is i think a free service, that may sort him out.

5th Aug 2006, 16:43
Why not just fire his ass? Tell him he has not delivered and you will not be giving any money as he has not performed what he said he would.


5th Aug 2006, 18:00
Thanks again for the responses on this. I’ve used the County Court before Trilander, and they have proved VERY useful. A lot of people think you won’t proceed as threatened, and I’m only too happy to get ‘em in the end. I think the Remuneration Certificate is much the same as that CC service, but I’ll have a look at it.
Cheers for your suggestion Ozzy, but the work is so far down the line now, he would definitely be after significant remuneration. He would, I’m sure, just hold the paperwork to ransom until we paid, so getting the job completed fully is probably the best option despite the immense temptation to sack him. The Law Society allows an “after completion” complaint to be lodged, so the practice will definitely be looked at to some degree. The annoying thing is that the junior partner and senior partner of the business just aren’t interested either. Any complaints they receive are simply passed on to the onanist for a response, and he just bleats about everybody else being at fault.

5th Aug 2006, 22:23
In a similar situation, I found that handing over all the details to Which? and having them published concentrated their minds for a while:}
When they finally came to settle, they included VAT, so I suggested that they should pay that - maybe I got that the wrong way round:confused:

5th Aug 2006, 23:04
Probate cases can take forever under certain circumstances, the problem being that it can be difficult for a solicitor to know when such a case will be complete because a lot of unexpected issues can arise. That said the possible procrastination of this particular guy and the 'couldn't care less attitude' of his partners probably indicate that your case is not near the top of their priorities (too many cases)

Send a letter, under registered post, asking for an exact 'state of play' detailing points already addressed and solved along with issues still outstanding and why they are outstanding. Also, give them a date by which you require to receive a reply (7 business days from expected receipt of letter is reasonable) Good idea to include a paragragh about their professional responsibilities and your willingness to enlist the help of the Law Society to ensure this, your objective, at this stage, being simply to promote your case to the top of their pile.

In reality your case is probably being dealt with by a legal exec and every time you contact your solictor he'll being going to see said LE and asking 'what's going on with this case'

If you feel you've received bad service from this solicitor you should complain to the Law Society, they do look at poor service complaints and are not only there for improper conduct. If you do decide to contact the LS you need to do it within 6 months of the completetion of your case.

Good luck !

6th Aug 2006, 11:02
I forwarded your post to my mom, who's a lawyer, and has served on professional standards and practices committees of the New York Bar Association (Coincidentally, she's presently in the UK taking depositions in a patent case to be heard in the US). Here's the essence of what she sent back in reply:

Stop communicating with the lawyer or his partners by telephone. Communicate only in writing, via certified/return receipt mail or whatever form of post qualifies as evidentiary or admissible in the UK.

If the lawyer calls on the phone, take contemporaneous call notes and make no firm statements in reply. Say, "Thank you for calling, I'll get back to you," and then reply in writing as above referencing the call of XXXXX date.

Get your files in order. Create separate chronological binders by topic such as: official documents, estate documents, communications to/from lawyer, etc. Each binder should have a table of contents at the front. Having your files in order will make the situation more clear to you and make it easier for you to communicate with both the current lawyer and any other third party you might have to speak with about it. Also, it makes creating additional sets of documents you might have to submit to an arbitration panel easier.

The following is cut/pasted from her email:

"I know over 20 lawyers here in the UK and they take the practice of law seriously. I'm confident that any formal review of professional practice is taken seriously by all involved."

6th Aug 2006, 13:07
There must be a lot of people who'd wish lawyers were "called to the bar" I reckon. (A room with a lot of bars and on the wrong side of 'em...) :E

6th Aug 2006, 13:18
What do you have when you have six lawyers buried up to their necks in sand?

6th Aug 2006, 13:22
I give up. So, what do you have when you have six lawyers buried up to their necks in sand, then?

6th Aug 2006, 13:25
Not enough sand.

6th Aug 2006, 13:33
Promise me that they squirmed a little bit though... :ok:

Too Short
6th Aug 2006, 14:50
I'm a probate lawyer here in the UK and first of all would say that there have been some very sound comments and pieces of advice given to you on this thread.

All estates are very different. Even estates of a similar size and 'type' can differ widely in how long they take to complete because of problems which arise throughout, which are not possible to foresee at the outset of the matter. A straightforward, large estate can be quicker to complete than a modest estate with a lot of problems.

In terms of costs, it is usual practice to charge an hourly rate plus a percentage of the value of the estate. However, fees always have to be reasonable and proportionate to the size and complexity of the estate. We do not have a free licence to charge as much as we like.

At the start of the matter, your solicitor should have let you have a copy of the firm's terms of business. In with that, as well as costs information, should be details of who will be dealing with the matter. It is not the case that usually such jobs are handed to a legal executive (as someone earlier suggested it might be). Legal executives are fully qualified lawyers in their own right and as such in most firms, work is distributed to a legal executive or solicitor or partner on the basis of whose turn it is to take a matter on i.e. who has the most time capacity to deal with it. Occaisonally, there is reason for a more experienced member of the department to deal with a matter if it has particular complexities or requires a particular field of expertise.

Although you are clearly having a bad experience with your solicitor, you are also quite right that if you go elsewhere he will not release papers until all outstanding costs are paid - this is known as a solicitors lien and is standard practice. Going elsewhere will also unfortunately probably add to costs because a new lawyer taking on the matter will need to spend time reading through the files, checking that all is in order so far before progressing the matter. I therefore agree with you in that it may make better economic sense (although not very satisfactory to you) to stick with the solicitor you have and make a complaint.

If you were given a copy of the firm's terms of business at the outset of the matter, there should be the firm's complaints procedure in there. I'm sure that the Law Society would like to see that this avenue has been explored before referring your complaint to them. Please rest assured though, the Law Society do take complaints very seriously and I'm sorry to disappoint those people who think that we are all in bed together - believe me, we aren't!

You are entitled to a full breakdown of costs and you are also entitled to know why the matter has taken as long as it has, so don't hesitate to ask for these.

I hope these extra points are of some help to you and I'm sorry to hear you are having such a bad experience. I always treat my matters how I would like it to be dealt with if it were my estate and put myself in my clients' shoes. I feel this is especially important with matters as sensitive and difficult for clients to deal with as probate. It's a shame that some in my profession don't do the same.

Hope it turns out well for you.

6th Aug 2006, 15:52
Too Short
My intention wasn't to mislead with regard to LE's and they are, indeed, fully qualified lawyers though it's important to note they are not solicitors (though they can be)

6th Aug 2006, 16:00
Have I got this right then: solicitors are the ones that drive really slowly around red-light districts and when they're arrested, get defended by legal executives unless they're not experienced enough, and that's when the lawyers step in...?! :O

6th Aug 2006, 16:33

That's only after they have refreshed themselves at The Inns of Court where they may find themselves waited on by very senior barristers on 'call' nights.It is usually possible to find a place in a mess and the food at the Inner is generally better than that at the Middle. Mind you, house rules were changed only fairly recently in order to allow solicitors entry. Standards have declined ever since!;)

6th Aug 2006, 18:46
Have I got this right then: solicitors are the ones that drive really slowly around red-light districts and when they're arrested, get defended by legal executives unless they're not experienced enough, and that's when the lawyers step in...?!

Almost certainly, the solicitor is question would have been researching a case :E

6th Aug 2006, 18:47
A lawyer is like a porn star. They're either going to f:mad:k you or get you off.

6th Aug 2006, 18:50
What's the difference between a lawyer, a solicitor, an attorney and a barrister (there may be other species of 'lawyer')?

6th Aug 2006, 18:51
Man goes to lawyer's office.......

"How much will it cost me to ask you three questions?"


"250!!! That's quite a lot isn't it?"

"Yes. What's your third question?"


6th Aug 2006, 18:56
Serious answer:

A 'lawyer' is a very moveable feast, the only really satisfactory definition of a lawyer is someone who holds himself out to be one.

What's the difference between a lawyer, a solicitor, an attorney and a barrister (there may be other species of 'lawyer')?

They're all types of 'lawyer': QCs, Barristers, Solicitors, Legal Executives, Articled Clerks, Legal Advisers and so on.

Barristers are 'called to the bar', and used to have a monopoly on rights of audience in the higher courts. Solicitors are practitioners of law under the Law Society. Now even Solicitors can become QCs if they have the relevant experience and expertise (the upcoming round of new silks, the first since major reforms, includes four Solicitors). In general the old barrister/solicitor distinction is being slowly eroded. You can still identify a barrister by the fact he wears a silly wig, though.

Attorneys - we don't have them, they're American. But an attorney is one who is qualified to practice law and has rights of audience.



6th Aug 2006, 18:58
Here in the States we don't have the solicitor/barrister distinction. Graduates of law schools ~ a post university degree generally requiring three years of study, including summer and other internships ~ take exams for admission to the law bar of their preferred state. For instance, my mom is admitted to the bars of NY and California, meaning she is licensed to represent clients in courts (or other legal matters) in those states.

My understanding is that admission in different states is seen as having greater or lesser value given the sorts of cases that are brought, etc. California and NY are seen as important jurisdictions. Many states have a reciprocity agreement whereby lawyers admitted in one state may appear in the court of another.

There is also a Washington DC bar (it's not a state), and also "being admitted to appear before the Supreme Court of the United States," a high honor, indeed.

Here in the US, a lawyer and an attorney are one in the same.

6th Aug 2006, 19:45
Well, thanks again to many contributors! I’m happy to see some humour entering the discussion, as it makes it less likely that the baseball bat will come out of the corner. Sorry I can’t address everyone’s comments.
SXB, we’ve been the route of requesting the state of play more than once, and he ignores it. We’ve written again to say how about answering the questions, and he ignores it. This kind of behaviour will obviously be a key part of our Law Society complaint. I think if he did explain what he was doing he would have shot himself down in flames long ago. I agree that the issue at heart is getting the priority raised. When the MIL was on her way out of this world after a long and difficult deterioration, I think I met people far more capable than this solicitor sitting next to her in the care home. He really takes the medal for waffle and confusion, and yet the firm’s partners let him continue with apparently no reprimand at all.
To me, it’s extremely unprofessional to not respond promptly and fully to a customer whether you’re a lawyer or a supermarket assistant. (apologies to any supermarket assistants reading – but I’ve done that job too… and done it well.) He told us over a year ago that there are just 6 things to do. We wish now that we’d tackled this all ourselves. It can’t be that complex if this fool is allowed to dabble like this.
Acrochik, thanks for your time and trouble with this. He seems to find the telephone and email far too modern for his skilled dealings, so most of the communication is in writing. I presume this is why he is so evasive in his replies. The questions NEVER get answered. Our files are all in order, which only serves to highlight the incompetence.
Too Short, thanks very much for your very detailed reply – it’s greatly appreciated. I also always treat people how I would like to be dealt with. The estate really is not at all complicated. Over my MIL’s five year deterioration we’ve sold assets, and dealt with her affairs with POA (power of attorney) and our thoughts at the end were to use a professional to close the file fully and legally. How wrong we were! We effectively already have followed the firm's complaints procedure by approaching the partners, and we’ve certainly reviewed their Terms of Business.
It just seems a great shame it has to come to this, where grieving daughters have to be messed about by a fool with a framed certificate. Isn’t the money enough for people like this?
Our current approach is then, to complain in writing to the Senior Partner, detailing this guy’s failings and asking for an explanation, plus a strict timetable for completion. We’re giving him 7 days for a response.

6th Aug 2006, 19:58
Good luck to you - I hope all comes out well, and soon!

BTW - I was also called to the bar, at the age of about 16,when a mate noticed that it was my round :E

6th Aug 2006, 20:06
As a defendant, I was pissed-off to discover that my appeal required the briefing of a barrister (which, apparently, only the solicitor could do, therefore ensuring double fees).

PS Many thanks, Wedge.

21st Sep 2006, 00:32
Well, the seven days came and went, and guess what? Absolutely no response…

After a brief debate among the three bereaved daughters, we waited fourteen days longer and then filed the Law Society complaint. Their immediate response, although a fairly standard reply, looks promising. STILL nothing from the senior partner of the business after six weeks.

Will report back on any progress…