Imagine this: you glance at the board, choose your three pound coffee, take a sip and then when you come to pay, “Hi Sir, that’ll be a tenner please?”. Or this: you order a new car and two turn up, “Sorry Sir, you didn’t tick the ‘I only want one’ box. That’ll be thirty grand please.” What other profession in the world could behave like this?! Bankers? Not even close. So who then? According to the Legal Ombudman report today, in divorce cases, it’s solicitors.
Now we’re biased – we admit that. But just look at this. The report published today said that a fifth of clients weren’t given an estimate of the cost of their case. That’s pretty rubbish. But what about the other 80%? How many were given a fixed quote I wonder? Isn’t that what you would want? This isn’t an idea that has escaped businesses by the way. Ladbrookes for example have demanded an end to the hourly rates their lawyers charge them by 2015. So why don't you?
Well let's look at the case studies in the report. Miss A's solicitors billed her for an extra £15,000 more than was initially agreed between them. Mrs B's solicitors were ordered to refund her a whopping £30,000 when her case was reviewed and Mrs C's solicitors were ordered to refund her £10,000. But it’s not just the cost. One solicitor who knew very little about divorce law, “…had been using Mr D’s money to pay a barrister…” to do the work for him. This is madness isn’t it? What possible justification could there be?
"Miss A was asked to pay £15,000 more than was agreed, Mrs B was refunded a whopping £30,000 and Mrs C refunded just a mere £10,000."
Well, for one thing the report cites, “financially challenging” legal markets. Rubbish. From 2010 until 2011, despite that little thing everyone else experienced called the recession, the number of solicitors grew at four times the rate of the population. FOUR. (See our why page here.) Worse still is that an estimated 200,000 cases will fall out of the legal aid criteria next year and will have to pay for what little advice they can afford themselves.
Still, never mind. The report says that things will get better because the legal market is being de-regulated and big brands will instead bring services to the public. But we think it’ll get worse first because every mass market does - only after which will people look for real expertise.
Take food for instance, we used to have local butchers stocking local meat. Experts. Then supermarkets took over butchery, mass produced beef and put horse in it. Now we all want butchers again. Take computers. The early Macs were brilliant; and then we all got PCs which always crashed. And now? We all want Macs again.
Since the fourteenth century and for six hundred years if you had a legal problem then you were in court, and if you were in court you would go straight to a barrister (you could actually do that then). Why a barrister? They were the experts. What about now? They still are. It is no good de-regulating the legal market to build big brands with lots of solicitors who all used to work for someone else: you’ll get horse meat and computers that crash. You need expertise. But until relatively recently you couldn't go straight to a barrister.
Now however - after the brief interlude of a century or so - you can. Once again you can get legal advice straight from a barrister. Experts in their fields, specialists at what they do, and cheaper too: online, fast and for a fixed fee. It is an open market place again. And we for one, welcome it.
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