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LAW POLL FIDDLE: Law Society of Scotland survey on client satisfaction used scripted replies, question rigging & involvement of ‘independent’ legal regulator SLCC was kept secret

11 Feb

Law Society poll details to remain secret says regulator. A SURVEY conducted by the Law Society of Scotland claiming Scottish solicitors are highly regarded by the public was so dishonest, the involvement of the ‘independent’ Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) and discussions about the poll and question rigging had to be censored out of documents released under Freedom of Information legislation.

AND, it emerged from an investigation into the poll the Law Society of Scotland demanded that all key documentation shared with the SLCC was provided to them on a confidential basis and on condition the material was safe from searching Freedom of Information enquiries by the media.

The research carried out by Ipsos MORI for the Law Society of Scotland claimed that of clients who had used a solicitor in the past five years – more than 90% “of respondents” said their own lawyer was either very trustworthy (70%) or fairly trustworthy (27%), with 87% describing solicitors overall as very or fairly trustworthy.

The survey went onto claim high numbers of clients felt their solicitor was an expert in their area of law and had provided good service enough to recommend to others. However, no independent material has been made available which could verify the claims, or identify which solicitors or law firms were involved.

Today, in documents released by the SLCC – blacked out to conceal discussions with the Law Society on how to ‘frame’ questions for the Ipsos-Mori survey, a murky trail of data manipulation emerges between the ‘independent’ SLCC & the Law Society – involved in a concerted attempt to manipulate the public into believing client-solicitor satisfaction rates are higher than the eventual publicity about the poll – published in late December 2014 & January 2015.

The documents released by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission reveal a series of polls, carried out by the Law Society in order to boost its image and that of the legal profession.

In one email between the SLCC and Law Society representatives on the ‘poll’, a Law Society representative tells his SLCC colleague: At the recent LSS/SLCC strategy day, I agreed to provide you with our polling plans so we could discuss possible areas for some joint work. There are three pieces of polling work which we plan to carry out before the end of the calendar year, all carried out by Ipsos MORI.

• Public polling on attitudes towards solicitors (around 1,000 people) – polling carried out in September with results due in October.

• Political monitor (around 100 Members of the Scottish Parliament) – polling carried out Sep-Nov with results due in early December.

• Members polling (around 550 members) – polling carried out in December with results due by calendar year end.

Can I suggest that we find some time in the next few weeks for us to chat through the questions we have asked in the past and plan to ask this year? Perhaps Wednesday 13 or Thursday 14 August?

After a round of fixing questions and manipulation of data, an email from the Law Society of Scotland complains Ipsos cannot get to work on the survey because the pollster company was “busy with referendum stuff” in reference to the Scottish independence Referendum during September 2014.

“Please find attached the public research with your proposed changes. I will send it on to Ipsos and let them advise on the best way to frame the questions. This research will now not happen before October-they’re quite busy with referendum stuff at the moment! If you can get back to me next week with any comments, I would appreciate it.”

During attempts to publicise Ipsos-Mori survey, the Law Society had so much difficulty obtaining publicity it’s own President – Alistair Morris put his name to articles spinning out the poll – which now appears more of a spin session than an accurate accounting of what the public really feel about high charging Scots lawyers who are costing their own legal profession over £1000 a day in compensation awards to ripped off clients.

Outgoing SLCC Chief Executive Matthew Vickers backed the decision to keep much of the details of the SLCC’s involvement with the survey a secret. He also supported the Law Society’s condition of providing documentation to the SLCC on the sly.

Matthew Vickers said: “The information which has been withheld relates to the survey carried out on behalf of the Law Society of Scotland (“the Society”) by IPSOS MORI. The SLCC was given the opportunity by the Society to contribute some questions to the survey and following the survey the results of the poll were shared with the SLCC by the Society. The Society provided the material to the SLCC on a confidential basis and this was agreed and reaffirmed with the society at the time.

Vickers – who is standing down from the SLCC to take up a role in mediation at Ombudsman Services, added he strongly rejected any calls for the Law Society documents to be released in the public interest. Vickers said there was a greater interest in withholding the information from the public than releasing it.

Law Society President Alistair Morris said: “Overall, the results from the Ipsos MORI research are very positive and we are delighted that our members are so well thought of. However we can never become complacent and we have to recognise that things do go wrong from time to time. In addition to ensuring that we have a strong regulatory system in place, it’s important that we can understand the reasons behind clients dissatisfaction and what we at the Law Society can do to provide the right support and training to ensure that solicitors offer the advice and services that their clients need, whether they are buying a house, completing a business deal or appearing in court.”

However, it now transpires a number of solicitors did not want anything to do with the survey, some even questioning it’s cost and worth.

Earlier today, a law firm contacted in the survey talked about the discredited poll, admitting they were provided with a scripted response on how to respond to the pollsters.

Speaking to DOI a solicitor claimed he disagreed with the Law Society intruding into solicitor client relationships purely to seek publicity for it’s own ends.

He said: “The Law Society’s desire for publicity is more often than not counter productive and creates an unnecessary air of potential disagreement or conflict if clients refuse to become involved”.

The solicitor indicated colleagues in the profession had also received similar prompts from the Law Society to respond to the “vanity survey”.

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