Crooked lawyers give Scotland a bad name. While the attention of most remains focussed on the crisis in the banking system, the problems which have caused the collapse of our great financial institutions are nothing new to Scotland’s legal sector. Year in year out, clients have been losing millions of pounds of their money to , ambitions, greedy, and downright crooked lawyers over the past couple of decades, and the regulator responsible, the Law Society of Scotland, has done little or nothing about it.
A crooked lawyer’s tangled web of deceit. During 1991, one of the most famous cases of fraud by the Scots legal profession occurred with revelations that John McCabe, a solicitor working at the now defunct Edinburgh firm of Scott Moncrieff & Dove Lockhart, operated a multi million pound fraud scam against clients & banks, which ultimately was discovered after he became careless and so entrenched in deceit & debt, there was simply no place left to run (although he did try running to Uruguay). While clients stood ruined, and banks took huge losses, the Law Society of Scotland could only watch on as the press of the day mauled both the legal profession and the poor standards of regulation which allowed McCabe to get away with what he did, and ultimately, McCabe was jailed for 10 years for his crimes.
Just imagine for a minute, if every one of the 10,000 lawyers in Scotland stole £4million from their clients. What would be done about it ? .. well nothing much, as long as the Law Society has anything to do with regulating lawyers …
Law Society Chief Kenneth Pritchard failed on reforms. Amid the recriminations of the McCabe case, and the costs of compensating his victims, the Law Society’s Kenneth Pritchard (now a Sheriff), promised reforms to ensure no repetition, and that standards would rise in Scotland’s legal profession to ensure public confidence remained in solicitors.
Kenneth Pritchard : “The aim of the new rules … is not to help the legal profession shrug off an obligation to meet losses, but to reduce the amount the Guarantee Fund might have to repay. “It should become much more difficult for solicitors to defraud clients. “There is not a reluctance among solicitors to pay this money. there is an acceptance that we must do so to maintain the good name and standing of the profession.”. What good name ?
Law Society Chief Pritchard performs a u-turn & orders legal firm to drop ‘crooked lawyers’ case. However, three years on in 1994, the same Law Society Chief, Kenneth Pritchard who had promised reforms to prevent crooked lawyers hurting their clients, was revealed to have personally intervened in a case of litigation against a firm of crooked lawyers, ordering the clients solicitors to withdraw from acting, letting the crooked lawyers off the hook in a policy of protection for crooked lawyers.
Court documents revealed Law Chief’s duplicity. Kenneth Pritchard wrote to legal firm Skene Edwards advising them to withdraw from acting in the case, and that letter was subsequently discussed in the Scottish Parliament debate chamber by Cabinet Secretary for Business John Swinney.
You can read more about how the Law Society of Scotland and Kenneth Pritchard did nothing to stem the rising tide of crooked lawyers, and actually closed ranks with crooked lawyers to protect them from punishment while denying clients access to justice, here : Law Society intervention in claims ‘commonplace’ as ex Chief admits Master Policy protects solicitors against clients
After the exploits of McCabe, the Law Society of Scotland professed to have ‘cleaned up Scotland’s legal profession, but much worse was to come as the following demonstrates.
Borders lawyer Andrew Penman became Scotland’s most famous crooked lawyer. From 1994 to the present day, my own battle with the Law Society of Scotland ended up in the press, showing yet again the Law Society of Scotland would simply close ranks with crooked lawyers to protect them from client complaints & financial claims for dishonesty & fraud. Indeed, the Law Society went out of its way in a determined effort to prevent me from obtaining legal representation and access to the courts to pursue Penman and his legal firm Stormonth Darling solicitors, for the untold damage it did to my family. Nothing then had changed – there were still plenty of crooked lawyers in business, and the Law Society of Scotland still covered up for crooked lawyers no matter what.
Proposals since 1999 to bring independent regulation to lawyers were blocked by Law Society. The legacy of Andrew Penman, and the cover up by the Law Society of his actions was felt by all solicitors just as in the McCabe case, and assisted with the drive to bring about independent regulation of lawyers and end the closed shop operated by the Law Society of Scotland that allowed thousands of complaints to be binned while investigations were whitewashed.
2006, and still plenty crooked lawyers in Scotland. Things are now so bad in Scotland that many solicitors & legal firms have ‘toxic levels of client complaints & claims’ for poor legal service, rendering the use of Scots solicitors a dangerous game of Russian roulette for consumers, where selecting the worst of a bad bunch can see you end up financially ruined and your lives destroyed by a greedy lawyer out to take as much as possible, safe in the knowledge his regulator, the Law Society of Scotland, will do nothing to help members of the public.
Lawyers staged mafia hit on one of their own. Indeed the corruption of Scotland’s legal profession became so entrenched, the Law Society’s own Chief Accountant, Leslie Cumming, was subject to a mafia hit, staged by crooked lawyers in an attempt it has since been claimed to put off investigations into crooked lawyers .. and while the then Law Society Chief Douglas Mill was busy blaming clients for the attack on Cumming, it became clear to all the motives for the attack came from within the ranks of Scotland’s solicitors, who had become so evil they would consider and use murder hits to escape justice for their vast network of corruption against clients.
2007, and even more crooked lawyers. The media coverage of countless scandals within the Scots legal establishment, and the Law Society’s seeming ability to whitewash any crooked lawyer, no matter the crimes they had committed, ultimately brought about the creation of legislation passed in 2007 to ‘improve’ regulation of the legal profession, however the ‘independent’ Scottish legal Complaints Commission which was created as a result of the LPLA (Scotland) Act 2007 has since been co-opted by the Law Society, and is mired in many scandals itself, as the legal profession fights back to retain its crooked regulatory powers over crooked lawyers.
Let us finally take a look at some of the people who have perpetuated this disgraceful state of affairs the Scots legal services market finds itself in :
Douglas Mill, ex-Chief Exec. of the Law Society. Douglas Mill, recently famed on television for supporting Sir Fred Goodwin who brought RBS to its knees, made no bones about it, he had no time for clients who complained against crooked lawyers, and saw it as his mission to interfere in complaints & financial claims against crooked lawyers. Mill horrendously hounded clients who dared make a complaint against a solicitor, and personally saw to it that attempts at legal action against solicitors failed at every turn, even demanding legal aid be refused to anyone seeking to take a lawyer to court.
Philip Yelland, Head of Client Relations. During all this time, and all these scandals, one man has been the key to ‘Client Relations’ at the Law Society of Scotland, Mr Philip Yelland, who has presided over scandal after scandal, where curiously many of the crooked lawyers got off the hook, or investigations were simply whitewashed, while the Law Society saw to it members of the public were denied access to justice and a solicitor to try and pursue the thousands of McCabes and Penmans for the damage they did to many clients.
Michael Clancy, Director of Law Reform. Despite the hundreds of ‘crooked lawyer’ scandals in the last two decades, and all the promises of reform from the Law Society itself, nothing has been done to help thousands of people with outstanding cases against crooked lawyers, and some at the Law Society such as Michael Clancy, have come down hard against any proposals to bring in Parliament or new legislation to help clean up the legal profession’s sins of the past.
You can read my own proposals, in effect. a “Truth & Reconciliation” proposal for the Law Society’s sins of the past here : The polluter pays – Why cleaning up lawyers sins of the past would be good for the public & legal profession alike
We are now at a point where no matter the scale of corruption in Scotland’s legal services market, nothing will bring the reforms and consumer protection that all Scots and consumers of legal services in this country should have. The feeling now by many is that when someone goes to a lawyer, the odds are they are going to get ripped off, and with lawyers experiencing a marked downturn in legal business, levels of fraud against clients through faked up legal fees and menacing demands for expenses on work not carried out are sharply rising.
If we are to have good regulation of legal services in Scotland, the Law Society of Scotland and those associated with it, presently or formerly, cannot be allowed anywhere near such a body, as the crop of scandals at the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission show very clearly.
As long as we have a Justice Secretary who says he will protect lawyers from much needed reforms, the Scots public will always take second place to the criminal element of society that walks around with a Law Society of Scotland membership badge, professing to offer the best in legal services when in reality they offer levels of toxicity to consumers that Chemistry could never hope to define.