#Law Reform
The Prime Minister / The Solicitors Regulation Authority
United Kingdom

I instructed a UK law firm to undertake a property transaction, and paid them several thousands of pounds to do so. I subsequently discovered that an error had been made. The law firm refused to accept liability. Although it is my conviction that the law firm were negligent unless a consumer can prove negligence through expensive court proceedings they cannot claim that negligence has taken place. It is a David and Goliath situation. The ordinary consumer does not have the resources to take on a powerful law firm. This is undemocratic and unfair. Moreover I have received what, in my view, amounts to a threat of legal proceedings from the firm in question should I publically criticise them.

I could not afford to take the case to trial and there is no consumer protection law offering redress in cases of alleged negligence by lawyers.

Lawyers justify their fees on the basis of the importance of their work - should they make an error in theory they are accountable. However in reality there is no consumer protection law in the UK which can be called upon by the client of a lawyer.

The only avenues of possible redress are either the Legal Ombudsman or private proceedings. As the latter can run into tens of thousands of pounds it is beyond the means of ordinary working people. The Legal Ombudsman only deals with issues of 'poor service’ but not alleged negligence and has a ceiling of £30,000 in compensation available. Although one can complain to the The Solicitors Regulation Authority their compensation scheme will only reimburse a victim in the case of clear cut misconduct such as fraud. This leaves a very wide gap – the ordinary individual or business who has instructed a law firm to oversee a transaction such as a property purchase.

The present situation is particularly unacceptable in view of the fact that practically every small business (and many private individuals) live in fear of opportunist claims funded by ambulance-chasing litigation firms. Everyone is potentially vulnerable to such claims – apart from lawyers themselves who in the event of a claim for alleged negligence are untouchable unless the complainant has extremely deep pockets.

This aggressive litigation culture has had a wide negative impact upon many aspects of ordinary life - increased motor insurance premiums, petty health and safety regs and red tape for businesses.

This petition is not intended to be an attack upon the law profession in general. The majority of lawyers act responsibly, however when a client believes that an outcome is not satisfactory there are no safeguards for that consumer. This is not acceptable. We call upon all responsible lawyers to sign this petition to safeguard the integrity and reputation of their profession.

We the undersigned call for:

Consumer right to a free, independent hearing in cases of alleged negligence by a lawyer instructed to act for a client in a property or business transaction.

The right for a former client to criticise a law firm without fear of libel proceedings.

Legal measures to curb opportunistic, personal injury litigation.

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The Increase Lawyer Accountability and Consumer Protection for Clients of Lawyers petition to The Prime Minister / The Solicitors Regulation Authority was written by Helena Sands and is in the category Law Reform at GoPetition.