Are Solicitors Losing Credibility?
Are the solicitors the best to visit with, the best to seek advice from and the best to instruct on legal matters?
Are they worth the fees they charge?
Clearly all solicitors go through extensive training, and obtain certification when they have jumped the hurdles set. When qualified they are admitted on to the register as a solicitor and they are fully entitled to claim the prestige of the title. Yet they may be inexperienced, having not operated without the assistance of experienced professionals. Equally you have a solicitor who is vastly experienced in one area of law, so unable to comment on other areas but can recommend another solicitor. Then you have the sub-skilled. They will not be thrown out of the society per-se but can exist delivering poor advice. The simple fact is a client may not know the good from the bad when choosing who is right for the situation. That all said, with a solicitor who is regulated, it is more likely that a better service is offered and better advice given.
Hiring a solicitor is one way, a good way, but not the only way, and not always the best way.
Clients seeking legal assistance are expected to embrace to the notion that all solicitors are the wise, the wonderfully learned, and educated in all matters. In a few cases they are not. The fact expressed by the Law Society is that solicitors act on behalf of and give legal advice to privately paying clients. The advice those clients require can fall into many categories and every solicitor cannot claim to be an expert in every topic of law. Moreover, most solicitors cannot be expected to know the good from the bad, and it follows that when a recommendation is made to seek advice from others, it is an opinion on the facts they know then.
Many solicitors will state that they are regulated whereas others are not. However, sometimes you simply don’t want regulation you want professionalism.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority represent and regulate solicitors in the United Kingdom.
The fact is, in its annual report, The Solicitors’ Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) revealed that it struck off 35% more solicitors in 2017 compared to the 12 months previous. Meanwhile, the legal costs awarded to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) in bringing prosecutions, rocketed from £1.7m to over £3m, an increase of 76%.
According to the annual report, 76 solicitors were struck off in 2016, compared to 56 in 2015. The number of fines rose by 65%, from 33 to 51, while reprimands doubled from 4 to 8. Fixed period suspensions increased from 12 to 19, but there was only one indefinite suspension, compared to 3 the previous year. The number of restrictions on practice imposed on solicitors rose from 12 to 26, and section 43 orders preventing non-lawyers from working for law firms from 2 to 6.
The increase in disciplinary activity was reflected in the rise in the number of SDT sitting days last year, up from 185 to 260. The SDT said its 76 strike-offs were the result of various forms of misconduct, including criminal convictions, overcharging clients or misappropriating their money, or failing to discharge their duties “honestly and reliably”.
A breakdown shows that 40% were based on criminal convictions. Almost a third (31%) involved breaches of the Solicitors Account Rules. 12% based on failures, such as failing to pay counsel or to comply with an undertaking and misuse or misappropriation of client money account accounted for 11% of allegations. The SDT said it had ordered £266,000 of the SRA’s costs bill not to be enforced without leave, which it does when there is evidence that the solicitor does not have the means to pay. The tribunal recorded that its budget for 2016 was just over £2.9m, compared to an actual spend in 2015 of £2.1m.
Despite these reports which upon first reflection is startling, the fact remains that they are more regulated, that they and their society as a whole want to keep the title of 'solicitor' beyond reproach, so they expel those who contravene the rules, whereas many other institutes and associations, do not.