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Dishonest in Name & Nature : Law Society of Scotland announces review of dodgy Scottish Solicitors Guarantee Fund, where clients claiming compensation ‘are made to feel like criminals’

Law Society of ScotlandLaw Society of Scotland to review its own dodgy claims fund. THE Law Society of Scotland has announced a ‘root & branch review’ of the infamously corrupt Scottish Solicitors Guarantee Fund, a fund paid into by all members of the legal profession. The Guarantee Fund, which the society claims will be ‘independently’ reviewed, differs from the equally corrupt Master Policy in that the former pays out for victims of dishonest solicitors, while the latter is supposed to pay out for victims of negligent solicitors.

The Law Society claimed in an announcement its latest “wide ranging and independent review of the compensation fund”, to be carried out independently following an open tender process. will study the purpose of the Guarantee Fund along with the cover and benefits it provides to consumers.  It will also consider the funding and governance arrangements and how these fit with the rapidly changing legal marketplace.  The review is expected to be completed over the next 12 months with a report and recommendations made to the Society’s regulatory committee.

Diary of Injustice has previously reported on how victims of crooked lawyers are poorly treated by the Scottish Solicitors Guarantee Fund, which has a poor track record at honouring its claim to compensate victims of corrupt solicitors : Law Society’s ‘Guarantee Fund’ for clients of crooked lawyers revealed as multi million pound masterpiece of claims dodging corruption

However, in an attempt to counter previous and well publicised evidence against the Guarantee Fund’s integrity, Carole Ford, the non-solicitor convener of the Society’s regulatory committee claimed in a statement issued by the Law Society : “By setting high standards for solicitors and regularly inspecting firms, our first responsibility is to try and prevent problems from arising in the first place.  However, we also need a robust scheme that protects innocent clients when things do go wrong, particularly when clients lose money through no fault of their own and as a result of a solicitor’s dishonesty.”

Ms Ford continued : “For over 60 years, the Guarantee Fund has been a cornerstone of the Scottish solicitor profession, giving assurance to consumers and being funded entirely by solicitors without the use of taxpayers’ money. Maintaining the Fund and considering applications for payments from affected clients are just some of the many ways in which the Law Society works to protect the public interest. However, we know the legal market is changing and changing rapidly.  That is why now is the right time to have a root and branch review of the Fund and consider whether the arrangements put in place by legislation are still effective and appropriate for today.”

Commenting on Ms Ford’s claims, a legal insider retorted :”Well, now you know why financial claims against crooked lawyers have failed for the past sixty years – because lawyers and the Law Society of Scotland have been looking after their own and covering their own backs.”

The latest review of the Guarantee Fund, which has been mired in fraud, controversy and allegations of discrimination against clients who were placed in the unenviable position of having to claim for compensation against their dishonest solicitor, comes after various earlier reports from the powerless Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) found the fund lacking in its claims & provisions to pay out when the situation of almost financially ruined clients clearly merited compensation.

Over two years ago in September 2011, Diary of Injustice reported on the SLCC’s last attempt at a report into the Guarantee Fund, here : DISASTER REPORT : Scottish Legal Complaints Commission study of Law Society “Guarantee Fund” suffers 13% turnout, finds clients ‘treated as criminals’

The floundering attempt by Scotland’s ‘independent’, lawyer dominated SLCC to produce a report into the Guarantee Fund was hit by a poor response rate, partly due to the bungled arrangements put in place by the SLCC to research problems of the Guarantee Fund, and arguments between the regulator, the Law Society of Scotland and other lawyers lobby groups.

Report heard Law Society staff made Guarantee Fund claimants feel like criminals. The SLCC’s Report carried out by the SLCC into the Scottish Solicitors Guarantee Fund heard from clients they were made to feel criminals by the Law Society of Scotland staff who controlled the compensation scheme. The SLCC survey was also hit by problems over the arrangements for distribution of the questionnaires, where almost unbelievably, the SLCC were forced to rely on the Law Society of Scotland to distribute the forms themselves, after refusing to hand over the identities of claimants to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.

One respondent to the survey stated : “It seemed as if the Scottish Solicitor’s Guarantee Fund were trying to pay as little as possible and were looking after their own interests. Again you were made to feel like a criminal at the hearing.”

Another respondent said : “I was not fully compensated for a fraud that was not my fault but my solicitor’s, who was now in jail and yet I had to suffer financially and with stress.”

Comments from the five people who provided reasons for their satisfaction expressed relief that the process had come to an end and they perceived that the Fund had worked well for them.

One respondent said : “Achieved desired outcome although would have preferred not to have gone through the process at all.”Another respondent said : “[Because] I felt that I could move forward and bring closure to the whole affair [as] I had felt very let down by the solicitor involved in my particular case.”

Diary of Injustice featured a report on the SLCC’s Guarantee Fund research project as it took shape, HERE and upon publication of the SLCC’s report, carried out by Progressive, a research company based in Edinburgh, final figures revealed an abysmally low response rate of only 13%, where the research company contracted by the SLCC ultimately received only 19 replies out of 145 questionnaires sent out by the Law Society of Scotland.

The research firm conducting the survey on behalf of the SLCC said in their report : “Progressive was not able to receive a database of contact details from the Law Society of Scotland. As such the questionnaire packs were sent to LSS for labelling and distribution.”

The company were further critical of the Law Society’s methods of distribution, stating “A large proportion of questionnaires were not sent directly to claimants. Sending questionnaires first to solicitors to pass on to their clients would have affected the likelihood of the questionnaires reaching them and also their likelihood of completing them.” Progressive further warned : “This is likely to impact response rates.”

The report also claims : “Missing information on labels. A few solicitors fed back that there was no client contact on the packs they were sent so were unable to forward these on, again, affecting the final response rate (at least 4 reported this to be the case)” and that some clients who were sent questionnaires by the Law Society of Scotland could not be traced because they had moved address.

CONDUCT OF REGULATOR PREJUDICED CONSUMER CLAIMS

Margaret Scanlan - Called to the Bars - Sunday Mail  15 March 2009 emailFormer SLCC Board Member Margaret Scanlan branded Guarantee Fund claimants as “chancers”. Previous investigations in to the SLCC’s attitude towards clients and compensations claims against solicitors have revealed prejudice against consumers at the very heart of the SLCC itself, which spilled out into the media when now former SLCC Board Member Margaret Scanlan raged against claimants to the Guarantee Fund, branding them “chancers” in a series of bitter emails revealed through a Freedom of Information investigation here : HERE& HERE

Continuing investigations into the SLCC by Diary of Injustice further revealed another board member, David Smith , married to Court of Session judge Lady Smith, had described claimants to the Master Policy, the Law Society of Scotland’s equally corrupt Personal Indemnity Insurance coverage for negligent solicitors, as “frequent flyers”.

The SLCC had attempted to withhold the identity of the board member who made the anti-client remarks, however, the regulator was ordered to release the information by a decision of the Scottish Information Commissioner. Diary of Injustice reported on the move by the then Information Commissioner, Kevin Dunion (who is now a board member of the SLCC), here : FOI Chief Dunion orders Scottish Legal Complaints Commission to release board member’s anti-client jibes, Master Policy study details

Two earlier reports published by Diary of Injustice featured findings of the University of Manchester 2009 report into the Guarantee Fund & Master Policy, here : ‘Ground-breaking’ investigation into Law Society’s Master Policy insurance reveals realities of corrupt claims process against crooked lawyers and here : Suicides, illness, broken families and ruined clients reveal true cost of Law Society’s Master Policy which ‘allows solicitors to sleep at night’

If you have a claim against the Scottish Solicitors Guarantee Fund, or the Master Insurance Policy, tell us at Diary of Injustice at scottishlawreporters@gmail.com

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Law Society demand Justice Secretary MacAskill intervene over SLCC report claiming ‘improper’ influences in Guarantee Fund client claims

Law Society SLCC MacAskillBully required, Urgent : Law Society of Scotland demand Justice Secretary intervene in SLCC ‘Guarantee Fund’ row. FIDDLING & MEDDLING by Law Society of Scotland officials in financial damages claims to the Scottish Solicitors Guarantee Fund made by clients who have been financially ruined by their ‘crooked lawyers’ have prompted the Law Society of Scotland to issue a stern rejection of statements made in the latest annual report of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission for 2011, published Friday, that the outcome of compensation claims made by clients to the Guarantee Fund are influenced “by factors other than the merits of the claims” such as corruption, intervention by Law Society officials to halt claims going ahead, and an institutional prejudice against consumers trying to recover money stolen by Scottish solicitors.

The Law Society is ‘so upset’ by the allegations, they have now called in Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill to bully ‘clarify’ the SLCC into withdrawing the claims.

slcc annualreport online 2011_Page30Claiming the obvious L Law Society Guarantee Fund is crooked, dishonest and claims are fiddled. The damaging claims made in the latest annual report of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) which have prompted the row between the two legal complaints regulators, state : “There is a statistical relationship between the number and total value of the claims made on the fund in the same year as an individual claim, and the level of payment made in individual claims. This suggests that the outcome of claims is influenced by factors other than the merits of the claims”. The claims are a result of research the SLCC commissioned into the Scottish Solicitors Guarantee Fund which supposedly exists to protect clients who have lost money as a result of the dishonesty of a solicitor. However, according to key SLCC insiders who spoke to Diary of Injustice earlier in the year, the research commissioned by the SLCC into the Guarantee Fund suffered a significant degree of control freakery, constant interference & a lack of cooperation from the Law Society of Scotland who wanted to control the entire project, and would rather the research not be published.

The Law Society of Scotland, angry at the claims issued a Press Release, rejecting any notion its ‘attempt’ at consumer protection is little more than consumer fraud states : The Society has today rejected this assertion as wholly misleading as the merit of the individual claim remains the only consideration when considering the outcome of that claim and any subsequent payment from the Guarantee Fund.  This was clearly explained to the SLCC in meetings and in written correspondence from the President of the Society, all in advance of today’s report publication.

With the SLCC annual report being laid before the Scottish Parliament, the Society has today written to the Cabinet Secretary for Justice and opposition justice spokespeople to clarify the situation and give a more accurate picture.

Alistair Morris, convener of the Society’s Guarantee Fund committee, said: “It is deeply frustrating that the SLCC suggests the outcome of Guarantee Fund claims are influenced by factors beyond the merits of the claim, especially when we have made it clear verbally and in writing that such a suggestion is wholly wrong.  It is even more concerning that the SLCC do not even refer to those assurances from the Society in their report. The Society co-operated fully with the SLCC when it commissioned research into the Guarantee Fund earlier this year. However we raised significant concerns at the misleading and potentially damaging interpretation of raw statistical data relating to the Guarantee Fund which suggests that the amount paid out in any claim is dependent on the sums held in the fund at any one time. We have made it clear to the SLCC, both verbally and in writing, that all Guarantee Fund claims are considered entirely on a case by case basis and on their own merit, regardless of the funds held. It is extremely disappointing that the SLCC annual report now risks misleading people into thinking that the outcomes of Guarantee Fund claims go beyond their individual merits. “

Mr Morris continued : “There are significant reserves held in the Guarantee Fund currently. Additionally, it is backed by Stop Loss Insurance amounting to £6 million and the legislation covering the Fund allows the Society to levy members if we faced circumstances where there were insufficient funds in the Guarantee Fund and Stop Loss Cover to cover the cost of a claim. Following our discussions with the SLCC we were informed that it intended to commission further research as a result of some of these initial findings. I hope this goes ahead and there will be an opportunity to demonstrate that this statement contained within the annual report laid before the Scottish Parliament is inaccurate and misleading.”

Commenting to Diary of Injustice today, an SLCC insider said the law complaints quango had only pursued the Guarantee Fund issue because of criticism from law reform campaigners & investigations carried out by Diary of Injustice into the Scottish Solicitors Guarantee Fund, revealing in an earlier article published in 2009 the Law Society’s ‘Guarantee Fund’ for clients of crooked lawyers revealed as multi million pound masterpiece of claims dodging corruption

Earlier in September 2011, Diary of Injustice reported on the SLCC’s slightly controversial report into the Guarantee Fund which has now caused the apparent fall out between the two regulators, here : DISASTER REPORT : Scottish Legal Complaints Commission study of Law Society “Guarantee Fund” suffers 13% turnout, finds clients ‘treated as criminals’

13% response disaster for SLCC report on Law Society’s crooked Guarantee Fund. A REPORT carried out by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) into the notoriously corrupt “Scottish Solicitors Guarantee Fund”, a ‘client protection’ scheme operated by the Law Society of Scotland to compensate clients who have lost money because of theft by dishonest crooked lawyers & their staff has been hit by an ABYSMALLY low response of only NINETEEN replies from ONE HUNDRED & FORTY FIVE questionnaires (13%) after the Law Society refused to hand over client contact details to the SLCC & its selected research company who were investigating claims against crooked lawyers in Scotland. One client who did reply to the survey said claimants “were made to feel like a criminal” at Guarantee Fund hearings.

THE REPORT, carried out on behalf of the SLCC by Progressive, a research company based in Corstorphine Road, Edinburgh, claimed the Law Society of Scotland had REFUSED to hand over a detailed contact list of members of the public who had contacted or submitted claims to the Guarantee Fund over the past 5 years. The company & SLCC were left with NO CHOICE other than to leave the Law Society of Scotland to distribute the forms to clients that it felt should be provided with a questionnaire.

Jane IrvineJane Irvine, SLCC Chair left out critical mentions in report announcement. In its announcement publicised online, the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission DID NOT mention the low turnout of NINETEEN PARTICIPANTS in its Press Release, available HERE, nor did the SLCC publicise the fact the Law Society of Scotland distributed the forms themselves after REFUSING to hand over Guarantee Fund claimant details to the company preparing the report or the SLCC itself. Legal insiders have commented today the survey was badly handed by the SLCC who were branded by one official from a Scottish consumer organisation as “too close to the Law Society for comfort” and “unwilling at best to get to the truth”. I reported on just how badly this latest SLCC survey was being handled in an earlier article, here : CENSORED : Scottish Legal Complaints Commission’s secret new Master Policy & Guarantee Fund research ‘shuts out’ real victims of crooked lawyers

Progressive, the firm conducting the survey on behalf of the SLCC said in their now published report : “Progressive was not able to receive a database of contact details from the Law Society of Scotland. As such the questionnaire packs were sent to LSS for labelling and distribution.”

“There were two categories of respondents on the Law Society of Scotland’s database and therefore two methods of distribution. For the first category, LSS had contact details for the claimant themselves so packs were sent directly to them. For the second, LSS’s database only contained details for the names of the claimants’ solicitors. In order to account for this, the questionnaire packs included an additional letter asking the solicitor to forward on to their client named on the front of the envelope.”

“In total, 145 questionnaires were distributed; 85 that went directly to claimants and 60 that went to claimants via their solicitor. In order to optimise the response rates to the survey reminder letters were sent to respondents halfway through the fieldwork period. The fieldwork period was also extended to give maximise the opportunity for claimants to respond.”

“Questionnaires were returned directly to Progressive in freepost envelopes. In total 19 completed questionnaires were returned for analysis, denoting a 13% response rate.”

It had been hoped to send questionnaires out to 250 people although for unexplained reasons and doubtless due to the fact the Law Society of Scotland were controlling distribution, only 145 eventually went out.

The company were further critical of the Law Society’s methods of distribution, stating “A large proportion of questionnaires were not sent directly to claimants. Sending questionnaires first to solicitors to pass on to their clients would have affected the likelihood of the questionnaires reaching them and also their likelihood of completing them.” Progressive further warned : “This is likely to impact response rates.”

The report also claims : “Missing information on labels. A few solicitors fed back that there was no client contact on the packs they were sent so were unable to forward these on, again, affecting the final response rate (at least 4 reported this to be the case)” and that some clients who were sent questionnaires by the Law Society of Scotland could not be traced because they had moved address.

The report went onto state all of those who eventually responded to the survey (NINETEEN PEOPLE IN FIVE YEARS) were suspiciously successful in their claim “to some extent” but even among those, there was still evidence of some dissatisfaction with the outcome and the decisions behind it. Clearly the Law Society of Scotland had chosen clients it thought would give the Guarantee Fund a better write up than others with more horrific experiences.

The report states : “Ten of our respondents were successful in their claim, all of whom were satisfied with the outcome. Six were partially successful and of these, four were dissatisfied.”

From the comments provided as to the reasons why, one respondent’s dissatisfaction stemmed from the perception that they were not provided with direct answers for the decision. Three comments related to respondents not receiving full compensation and feeling that the decision made and the reasons for it were not clearly explained to them.

One respondent to the survey stated : “It seemed as if the Scottish Solicitor’s Guarantee Fund were trying to pay as little as possible and were looking after their own interests. Again you were made to feel like a criminal at the hearing.” Another respondent said : “I was not fully compensated for a fraud that was not my fault but my solicitor’s, who was now in jail and yet I had to suffer financially and with stress.”

Comments from the five people who provided reasons for their satisfaction expressed relief that the process had come to an end and they perceived that the Fund had worked well for them.

One respondent said : “Achieved desired outcome although would have preferred not to have gone through the process at all.”Another respondent said : “[Because] I felt that I could move forward and bring closure to the whole affair [as] I had felt very let down by the solicitor involved in my particular case.”

Bearing in mind the turnout for the report is so small, its findings & recommendations are very limited, due mostly to the notably poor advertising of the survey by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (who apparently wanted as small a number of participants as possible) and the fact the Law Society of Scotland were allowed to distribute the forms on their own, rather than identification & distribution be handed over to the report’s authors or an independent body.

Margaret Scanlan - Called to the Bars - Sunday Mail  15 March 2009 emailChancers Calling – SLCC Board Member Margaret Scanlan branded Guarantee Fund claimants as “chancers”. It should also be borne in mind SLCC Board Members have already expressed anti-client sentiment against claimants to the Guarantee Fund, where in one publicised incident, SLCC Board Member Margaret Scanlan raged against claimants to the Guarantee Fund, branding them “chancers” in a series of bitter emails revealed to the public by Freedom of Information legislation, revealed here : Officials pull FOI disclosures as Guarantee Fund “chancer” emails show Law Society anti-client bias has migrated to Legal Complaints Commission & here : MacAskill must clean up law complaints body as members ‘booze culture conduct’ reflects lack of discipline & will to investigate crooked lawyers

Speaking to Diary of Injustice this afternoon, a client who has been waiting FIVE YEARS for his claim to the Scottish solicitors Guarantee Fund to be paid after his solicitor stole nearly SEVENTY THOUSAND POUNDS from his client’s bank account, felt the argument between the SLCC & Law Society “is somewhat staged”. He went onto say it was his experience neither the Law Society or the SLCC can be trusted to properly regulate the legal profession in Scotland.

In spite of the Law Society’s condemnation of the claims contained in the SLCC’s annual report, it is now an established fact that claims against the Scottish Solicitors Guarantee Fund have been the subject of delaying tactics & corrupt attempts to prevent any payouts in most damages claims made by members of the public who have been left in financial ruin after growing numbers of Scottish lawyers have embezzled their clients funds.

More analysis of the  latest annual report of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission for 2011 will be published during the week.

 

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DISASTER REPORT : Scottish Legal Complaints Commission study of Law Society “Guarantee Fund” suffers 13% turnout, finds clients ‘treated as criminals’

13% response disaster for SLCC report on Law Society’s crooked Guarantee Fund. A REPORT carried out by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) into the notoriously corrupt “Scottish Solicitors Guarantee Fund”, a ‘client protection’ scheme operated by the Law Society of Scotland to compensate clients who have lost money because of theft by dishonest crooked lawyers & their staff has been hit by an ABYSMALLY low response of only NINETEEN replies from ONE HUNDRED & FORTY FIVE questionnaires (13%) after the Law Society refused to hand over client contact details to the SLCC & its selected research company who were investigating claims against crooked lawyers in Scotland. One client who did reply to the survey said claimants “were made to feel like a criminal” at Guarantee Fund hearings.

THE REPORT, carried out on behalf of the SLCC by Progressive, a research company based in Corstorphine Road, Edinburgh, claimed the Law Society of Scotland had REFUSED to hand over a detailed contact list of members of the public who had contacted or submitted claims to the Guarantee Fund over the past 5 years. The company & SLCC were left with NO CHOICE other than to leave the Law Society of Scotland to distribute the forms to clients that it felt should be provided with a questionnaire.

Jane IrvineJane Irvine, SLCC Chair left out critical mentions in report announcement. In its announcement publicised online, the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission DID NOT mention the low turnout of NINETEEN PARTICIPANTS in its Press Release, available HERE, nor did the SLCC publicise the fact the Law Society of Scotland distributed the forms themselves after REFUSING to hand over Guarantee Fund claimant details to the company preparing the report or the SLCC itself. Legal insiders have commented today the survey was badly handed by the SLCC who were branded by one official from a Scottish consumer organisation as “too close to the Law Society for comfort” and “unwilling at best to get to the truth”. I reported on just how badly this latest SLCC survey was being handled in an earlier article, here : CENSORED : Scottish Legal Complaints Commission’s secret new Master Policy & Guarantee Fund research ‘shuts out’ real victims of crooked lawyers

Progressive, the firm conducting the survey on behalf of the SLCC said in their now published report : “Progressive was not able to receive a database of contact details from the Law Society of Scotland. As such the questionnaire packs were sent to LSS for labelling and distribution.”

“There were two categories of respondents on the Law Society of Scotland’s database and therefore two methods of distribution. For the first category, LSS had contact details for the claimant themselves so packs were sent directly to them. For the second, LSS’s database only contained details for the names of the claimants’ solicitors. In order to account for this, the questionnaire packs included an additional letter asking the solicitor to forward on to their client named on the front of the envelope.”

“In total, 145 questionnaires were distributed; 85 that went directly to claimants and 60 that went to claimants via their solicitor. In order to optimise the response rates to the survey reminder letters were sent to respondents halfway through the fieldwork period. The fieldwork period was also extended to give maximise the opportunity for claimants to respond.”

“Questionnaires were returned directly to Progressive in freepost envelopes. In total 19 completed questionnaires were returned for analysis, denoting a 13% response rate.”

It had been hoped to send questionnaires out to 250 people although for unexplained reasons and doubtless due to the fact the Law Society of Scotland were controlling distribution, only 145 eventually went out.

The company were further critical of the Law Society’s methods of distribution, stating “A large proportion of questionnaires were not sent directly to claimants. Sending questionnaires first to solicitors to pass on to their clients would have affected the likelihood of the questionnaires reaching them and also their likelihood of completing them.” Progressive further warned : “This is likely to impact response rates.”

The report also claims : “Missing information on labels. A few solicitors fed back that there was no client contact on the packs they were sent so were unable to forward these on, again, affecting the final response rate (at least 4 reported this to be the case)” and that some clients who were sent questionnaires by the Law Society of Scotland could not be traced because they had moved address.

The report went onto state all of those who eventually responded to the survey (NINETEEN PEOPLE IN FIVE YEARS) were suspiciously successful in their claim “to some extent” but even among those, there was still evidence of some dissatisfaction with the outcome and the decisions behind it. Clearly the Law Society of Scotland had chosen clients it thought would give the Guarantee Fund a better write up than others with more horrific experiences.

The report states : “Ten of our respondents were successful in their claim, all of whom were satisfied with the outcome. Six were partially successful and of these, four were dissatisfied.”

From the comments provided as to the reasons why, one respondent’s dissatisfaction stemmed from the perception that they were not provided with direct answers for the decision. Three comments related to respondents not receiving full compensation and feeling that the decision made and the reasons for it were not clearly explained to them.

One respondent to the survey stated : “It seemed as if the Scottish Solicitor’s Guarantee Fund were trying to pay as little as possible and were looking after their own interests. Again you were made to feel like a criminal at the hearing.” Another respondent said : “I was not fully compensated for a fraud that was not my fault but my solicitor’s, who was now in jail and yet I had to suffer financially and with stress.”

Comments from the five people who provided reasons for their satisfaction expressed relief that the process had come to an end and they perceived that the Fund had worked well for them.

One respondent said : “Achieved desired outcome although would have preferred not to have gone through the process at all.”Another respondent said : “[Because] I felt that I could move forward and bring closure to the whole affair [as] I had felt very let down by the solicitor involved in my particular case.”

The full report by Progressive on the Guarantee Fund can be read here : Progressive Guarantee Fund Report 2011 (pdf) or online here : Progressive Guarantee Fund Report 2011

Bearing in mind the turnout for the report is so small, its findings & recommendations are very limited, due mostly to the notably poor advertising of the survey by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (who apparently wanted as small a number of participants as possible) and the fact the Law Society of Scotland were allowed to distribute the forms on their own, rather than identification & distribution be handed over to the report’s authors or an independent body.

Margaret Scanlan - Called to the Bars - Sunday Mail  15 March 2009 emailChancers Calling – SLCC Board Member Margaret Scanlan branded Guarantee Fund claimants as “chancers”. It should also be borne in mind SLCC Board Members have already expressed anti-client sentiment against claimants to the Guarantee Fund, where in one publicised incident, SLCC Board Member Margaret Scanlan raged against claimants to the Guarantee Fund, branding them “chancers” in a series of bitter emails revealed to the public by Freedom of Information legislation, revealed here : Officials pull FOI disclosures as Guarantee Fund “chancer” emails show Law Society anti-client bias has migrated to Legal Complaints Commission & here : MacAskill must clean up law complaints body as members ‘booze culture conduct’ reflects lack of discipline & will to investigate crooked lawyers

THE second piece of research carried out by University of Manchester was a statistical analysis of data from claims. The research analysed the statistical data to establish if there were any relationships between different aspects of claims made. What the research did not do was explore or look into the detail of individual claims or seek to establish if there were underlying reasons for any findings.

The statistical analysis identified a relationship between the number and total value of claims received in the same year as an individual claim and the level of payment made on an individual claim. The University’s conclusion was that the outcomes of individual claims on the Guarantee Fund are statistically related to factors beyond the ‘merits of the individual claim’. The SLCC said it “noted this conclusion but has not drawn any conclusions about underlying reasons, as they could be subject to many different factors, not all of which would be within the control of the LSS.”

The University of Manchester ‘statistical analysis’ of claims data, can be read here : University of Manchester Guarantee Fund Report 2011 (pdf)

SLCCSLCC statement is short on detail or accuracy of how Guarantee Fund survey actually turned out. The SLCC concluded in its announcement : “The SLCC is keen to take this work forward. Following on from the two pieces of research we are using the results from the Progressive research as a baseline for ongoing monitoring. The questionnaire used in the research will be issued by the LSS to all claimants at the end of the claims process. These questionnaires will be returned to and monitored by the SLCC. We will share information with the LSS and publish findings periodically will carry out an audit of a sample of the actual claims from which the University of Manchester took the statistical data. During the first half of 2012 we will examine the actual cases, the processes followed and the records of decisions to explore whether there are identifiable reasons for the statistical relationship.”

Two earlier articles featured the initial findings of the University of Manchester 2009 report into the Guarantee Fund & Master Policy, here : ‘Ground-breaking’ investigation into Law Society’s Master Policy insurance reveals realities of corrupt claims process against crooked lawyers and here : Suicides, illness, broken families and ruined clients reveal true cost of Law Society’s Master Policy which ‘allows solicitors to sleep at night’

Page 8 - Consumer Focus Scotland refused cooperation from Law SocietySuicides, illness, family breakdown, loss of homes, loss of livelihood were all identified by interviewees as being directly associated with members of the public’s dealings with the Law Society & Master Policy. During the research team’s investigation of claims against the Master Policy, team members were told of suicides which had occurred due to the way in which clients of crooked lawyers had been treated by the Law Society of Scotland and the insurers who operate the Master Policy protection scheme for solicitors against negligence claims. Quoting the report : “Several claimants said that they had been diagnosed with depression; that they had high blood pressure; and several had their marriages fail due to their claim. Some had lost a lot of money, their homes, and we were told that one party litigant had committed suicide.”

Further excerpts from the Manchester University report into the Law Society’s Master Policy & Guarantee Fund show the intolerable strain clients who attempt to claim against their ‘crooked’ solicitor have to endure : Claimants “described being intimidated, being forced to settle rather than try to run a hearing without legal support, and all felt that their claims’ outcomes were not fair. Some claimants felt that they should have received more support, and that this lack was further evidence of actors within the legal system being “against” Master Policy claimants. Judges were described as being “former solicitors”, members of the Law Society – and thus, against claimants. Some described judges and other judicial officers as being very hostile to party litigants.”

Law Society & Scottish GovernmentScottish Government have been promoting use of Law Society Guarantee Fund for new entrants to legal services market. Attempts by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission to avoid portraying the Guarantee Fund too badly may be linked to the reliance of the SNP Scottish Government in using the Guarantee Fund as a compensation vehicle for clients of new entrants to Scotland’s supposedly expanded legal services market. I reported on this ludicrous idea in an earlier article here : Legal Services Bill vote by MSPs will force all victims of ‘crooked lawyers’ to use Law Society’s corrupt ‘claims dodging’ Guarantee Fund

As far back as March 2009, I revealed in an article : Law Society’s ‘Guarantee Fund’ for clients of crooked lawyers revealed as multi million pound masterpiece of claims dodging corruption

Yet after THREE YEARS, this latest attempt by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission to investigate the Law Society of Scotland’s Guarantee Fund has resulted in yet another failure. There is noticeably no mention in the announcement of how the latest survey into the Master Policy is progressing, if at all.

Clearly as long as the Law Society of Scotland control both the Guarantee Fund and the Master Policy, there will be no “ultimate client protection” for consumers of legal services in Scotland and clearly as long as the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission remains as cowardly and ineffective as it is, there will be no such thing as independent effective regulation of the legal profession in Scotland and therefore no protection for clients from ‘crooked lawyers’.

 

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CENSORED : Scottish Legal Complaints Commission’s secret new Master Policy & Guarantee Fund research ‘shuts out’ real victims of crooked lawyers

SLCCAnti-client law complaints quango SLCC attempts to keep new Master Policy research secret. SECRET new research being carried out by the anti-client Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) into the notoriously corrupt Master Policy & Guarantee Fund client compensation schemes operated by the Law Society of Scotland is so secret the public and media are being shut out of scrutinising the long running ‘half-hearted’ attempt by Scotland’s hapless regulator of complaints against the legal profession to fulfil a pledge in laws created at the Scottish Parliament in 2007 to investigate & oversee growing numbers of claims lodged by ripped-off clients for damages against hundreds of negligent, dishonest & ‘crooked lawyers’ in Scotland’s legal profession.

Master Policy research secrets withheld by ‘independent’ law quango SLCC. Requests made to the SLCC under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 for more details on the nearly three year ‘ongoing’ research being carried out by the SLCC have resulted in scant release of information to the public, who are supposed to be the target of secret questionnaires, the wording of which has been the subject of heated arguments & debate within the SLCC & the Law Society of Scotland for well over a year. The SLCC have even refused to reveal how the questionnaires are to be released and what criteria is being used to select subjects from the many members of the public who have attempted to lodge claims against the Law Society of Scotland’s Guarantee Fund & Master Policy.

Something to Hide ? Scottish Legal Complaints Commission’s new Master Policy Research targets 657 claimants but the forms will be handed out by Marsh ! Little has been revealed of the new research in the releases of documents from the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission although one snippet of detail reveals the “SLCC to arrange for hard copies of the 657 questionnaires to be given to Marsh to send out to claimants.” with all other details from the key documents REMOVED. One of the few things to be revealed by the SLCC is this latest piece of research into the Master Policy is being carried out by Professor Frank Stephen of Manchester University’s School of Law, who co-authored the 2009 report on the Master Policy which documented client suicides and refusals by the Law Society of Scotland & US insurers Marsh to cooperate with the investigation.

One MSP who studied the SLCC’s highly censored release of information queried why there was apparently only one member of the University of Manchester law team mentioned in the new survey where in the earlier 2009 report, there were two.

He said : “While I know Professor Frank Stephen very well, given his duties as advisor to the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee on particular pieces of legislation including the Legal Services Bill, I would have thought given the controversial nature of the subject matter under investigation, there should be additional academics brought in from outside the legal sector to ensure that impartiality and credibility is maintained if the results of this secret research are to be believed.”

Secret briefings between the Law Society & SLCC over the Master Policy will remain secret for now. Even briefings between the SLCC & Law Society of Scotland were deemed so sensitive & so secret due to the intense corruption already revealed within the operation of the Master Insurance Policy that details of lengthy SLCC-Law Society meetings were also censored for fear of revealing bitter arguments & heated debates over demands from the legal profession and the insurers the research should not touch on key areas or cover some of the worst examples of claims already revealed in the 2009 report which documented clients who had committed suicide after being harangued by the legal profession over their claims against the Master Policy.

The SLCC’s intention to research claims made against the Guarantee Fund, a fund operated by the Law Society of Scotland which ‘requires’ all solicitors to pay into each year to cover the cost of ‘dishonesty’ in the legal profession where clients funds are fleeced or embezzled by their solicitors has also hit trouble, with the legal profession utterly resistant to any outside scrutiny of the large amounts of claims being made to the Fund, many of which date back over years, resulting in even more financial hardship to clients who have been financially ruined by their lawyers.

Again, the SLCC heavily censored the information regarding their attempt to investigate the Law Society’s Guarantee Fund, and most documents disclosed under Freedom of Information laws suffered severe censorship as can be seen below.

Something more to hide : Scottish Legal Complaints Commission’s Guarantee Fund Research is so secret clients of crooked lawyers should not be told about it

A senior official from one of Scotland’s consumer organisations branded the SLCC’s investigations into the Master Policy & Guarantee Fund as “appalling” and claimed the law quango was trying to avoid its responsibilities to monitor claims to the Master Policy & Guarantee Fund, duties assigned to the SLCC by the Scottish Parliament in sections of the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007.

She said : “This is now the second piece of research commissioned by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission into the Master Policy yet they have not even acted on many of the key findings of the first report in 2009. I do not believe the SLCC is genuinely motivated to make enquiries of either the Master Policy or the Guarantee Fund and they are simply trying to prolong the issue to the point no action will be taken with regard to its monitoring role.”

One client told how he ended up falling victim to what he called “a six year nightmare which tore his family apart” after he tried to claim compensation for the loss of over £120,000 & property titles to a crooked lawyer who still works and has connections to several Council members of the Law Society itself.

After being told of the secret new research being carried out by the SLCC into the Master Policy, he said : “The SLCC haven’t asked me to participate in this survey and I know why. Its because I will tell the truth about what the Law Society and their insurers did to my family to stop me getting back what my solictor stole from me. The whole Master Policy thing is a scam from start to finish and no one gets back what has been taken from them as far as I can see.”

While the SLCC were not available for comment over the Easter period, a source close to the commission claimed its board were hoping the results of the new research could be used to discredit the earlier 2009 report and gloss over the most controversial findings & comments of that report, carried out by a two member University of Manchester team, Professor Frank Stephen & Dr Angela Melville, more of which can be read here : ‘Ground-breaking’ investigation into Law Society’s Master Policy insurance reveals realities of corrupt claims process against crooked lawyers and here : Suicides, illness, broken families and ruined clients reveal true cost of Law Society’s Master Policy which ‘allows solicitors to sleep at night’

Page 8 - Consumer Focus Scotland refused cooperation from Law SocietySuicides, illness, family breakdown, loss of homes, loss of livelihood were all identified by interviewees as being directly associated with members of the public’s dealings with the Law Society & Master Policy. During the research team’s investigation of claims against the Master Policy, team members were told of suicides which had occurred due to the way in which clients of crooked lawyers had been treated by the Law Society of Scotland and the insurers who operate the Master Policy protection scheme for solicitors against negligence claims. Quoting the report : “Several claimants said that they had been diagnosed with depression; that they had high blood pressure; and several had their marriages fail due to their claim. Some had lost a lot of money, their homes, and we were told that one party litigant had committed suicide.”

Law Society of ScotlandLaw Society officials linked to suicide of client who claimed against the Master Policy. The suicide of one client who had dealings with the Master Policy, is apparently linked to senior officials at the Law Society of Scotland itself, who, when approached by the client to handle a complaint against his solicitor who had made major errors in handling legal business, recommended to the now deceased client he approach a well known firm of solicitors to sue his original solicitor and pursue a claim against the Master Policy for negligence. However, what the client did not know was the law firm which the now promoted Director of a department at the Law Society had recommended he approach, actually represented the Legal Defence Union, which exists to defend solicitors against both claims & complaints from clients, and who are involved in defending solicitors against over two thirds of the thousands of complaints made annually against lawyers by members of the public in Scotland.

The client, a farmer and co owner of a business, went onto unknowingly engage the law firm recommended to him by the still serving senior Law Society official, however, unsurprisingly, little or no progress was made over a lengthy period of time on the client’s claim against the Master Policy, which in itself, caused severe stress and depression to the client and his family.

Matters reached the stage where the law firm, recommended to the client by the Law Society itself had done little on the case, and offered no hope of a just & fair resolution to the huge losses caused by the client’s original solicitor, one evening, not long after yet another unsuccessful meeting with his solicitors, the client in question had reached a point of such depression, he committed suicide at home using a shotgun, leaving his widow & children. Several days after the client’s suicide, the same Law Society official who has been in charge of regulation for almost twenty years and who had recommended the law firm which had done nothing to proceed the deceased client’s claim and take the original ‘crooked lawyer’ to court, wrote to the widow of the victim and callously informed her she had two weeks to make a complaint to the Law Society or she would be time barred.

The case itself, was investigated by the then Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman Linda Costello Baker, in 2001, who found the Law Society of Scotland had failed the deceased client and ordered they re-investigate the complaint. The Law Society then proceeded to investigate the complaints again, however reaching the same conclusions, which prompted the widow of the deceased client to return to the SLSO, Ms Costello Baker, who again investigated in 2003 and judged the Law Society had failed once more.

At least two other suicides directly associated with clients dealings with the Master Policy are known, where in both cases, clients appeared to have been put under intolerable pressure, delay, deceit and intimidation by lawyers, the Law Society itself, and the insurers to the Master Policy, that the result of the entire process was to cause the claimants to end their lives after breaking under the strain of dealings with the apparently deadly Master Policy insurance scheme.

Further excerpts from the Manchester University report into the Law Society’s Master Policy & Guarantee Fund show the intolerable strain clients who attempt to claim against their ‘crooked’ solicitor have to endure : Claimants “described being intimidated, being forced to settle rather than try to run a hearing without legal support, and all felt that their claims’ outcomes were not fair. Some claimants felt that they should have received more support, and that this lack was further evidence of actors within the legal system being “against” Master Policy claimants. Judges were described as being “former solicitors”, members of the Law Society – and thus, against claimants. Some described judges and other judicial officers as being very hostile to party litigants.”

Jane IrvineSLCC Chair Jane Irvine ‘well aware of long running problems & corruption at the Law Society, Master Policy & Insurers’. Insiders at the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission claim Jane Irvine, the current SLCC Chair “is well aware” of the suicide case and many other difficulties encountered by clients attempting to register claims against the Master Policy & Guarantee Funds, many of which were brought to the attention of Ms Irvine and also her predecessor at the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman, Linda Costello Baker, yet the SLCC has chosen to do nothing on its monitoring role after three years of operation and several of the SLCC’s board members now appear to exhibit intense personal prejudice against clients who dare attempt to claim back financial damages inflicted on them by their legal representatives.

One source close to the commission said over the weekend : “This is the Scottish do nothing Complaints Commission and they definitely do not want to hear about crooked lawyers. Jane Irvine and the rest of them know the score on the Master Policy but all the indications are they don’t want to do anything about it just in case they reveal the truth we all know which is the Law Society and its insurers are rotten to the core. All the top brass seem to be concerned about these days is keeping money in the bank and holding onto their salary packages.”

The source continued : “Get Irvine to publish the reports on the Master Policy suicide case in Oban and you will see just how rotten the Law Society & Marsh really are.”

 

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15 court challenges, expense claims through the roof, lack of consumer confidence & no Master Policy scrutiny after two years tells all on Scottish Legal Complaints Commission

SLCCAfter two years the SLCC has failed to live up to consumer expectations. AS THE Scottish Legal Complaints Commission prepares to publish its latest annual report, which is expected to show a drop in complaints being investigated by the hapless law complaints quango which has itself, yet to produce any successful prosecutions of ‘crooked lawyers’, it was revealed earlier this week in the Scotsman newspaper the SLCC, which has so far not endeared itself to solicitors or the typical annual roll of thousands of victims of Scotland’s notoriously poor legal services market now faces around 15 legal challenges from the legal profession to its authority in Scotland’s Court of Session.

The SLCC have already lost two court challenges, one brought by a complainant who was awarded rare legal aid to pursue a full court of session appeal, while the other was brought by the Law Society. I reported on both those cases in an earlier articles HERE & HERE. A source close to the law complaints quango claimed earlier this week they expected to lose many more of the court challenges now building up.

While the SLCC has attempted to portray itself as an ‘independent’ regulator of complaints against solicitors, the past two years of its work, and nearly three years of existence have if anything produced a slew of revelations the law complaints quango is more anti-client, or anti-consumer than as it would have us believe, a fearless defender of client’s best interests.

Insults fly at SLCC as Law chiefs launch bitter tirades against campaign groups & law reformersDiary of Injustice reported how SLCC Board members had berated consumers in internal emails. Over the past two years, investigations into the conduct of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission’s own board members has revealed a culture of hate fuelled remarks directed against consumer groups, clients, while board members openly expressed antipathy & animosity towards claimants to the Law Society of Scotland’s Guarantee Fund, which is one of the areas the SLCC was given a mandate in the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007 to oversee, along with the infamous Master Policy, the latter of which was the subject of an independent investigation carried out by the University of Manchester’s Law School, who revealed in their final report there were client suicides connected to the Master Policy, information the insurers who run the Master Policy, Marsh, Royal Sun Alliance & others, and Law Society had suppressed.

Master Policy Report Suicides revealedMaster Policy report revealed client deaths covered up by Law Society. You can read more about the University of Manchester’s report on the Master Policy, here : Suicides, illness, broken families and ruined clients reveal true cost of Law Society’s Master Policy which ‘allows solicitors to sleep at night’. However, three years on since the law complaints quango was created in a blaze of publicity to restore public confidence in the handling of complaints against Scottish solicitors and to keep an eye on how clients are compensated for the actions of ‘crooked lawyers’, and over a year on since the SLCC’s own report tied up the Master Policy to deaths, the SLCC is still bogged down in discussing what it should actually be doing with regards to the highly contentions Section 39 of the LPLA Act : Monitoring effectiveness of guarantee funds etc

The latest references in the SLCC’s most recent published board meeting minutes (September 2010), make for further, almost hopeless reading on the subject of monitoring of the Master Policy, where the SLCC’s board were told :

“5.1 Guarantee Fund Research: An update was provided. Members noted the progress being made on procuring a suitable research company.

5.2 Master Policy Research: The approach to information gathering was discussed and the cost implications of this piece of research. Once costings have been attained a further discussion will take place at the next suitable Board meeting. There was wider debate about the direction of the research and the ongoing need for a steering committee separate to the Board and whether the project should report directly to the board via the ICEO. It was agreed that the Chair, AP and ICEO should meet separately to discuss this.”

Taken in terms of what the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission’s board have achieved so far this year on their monitoring remit, this is indeed a poor state of affairs.

The SLCC’s Board meeting of January 2010 revealed :

“The Chair of the Research Group gave an overview of the paper on Oversight and a brief discussion ensued. It was agreed that the Board would authorise the Chair of the Research Group:

8.1 to instruct Professor Stephen to conduct the necessary statistical analysis of such worthwhile data as is made available to him by the Law Society and Marsh in relation to the two schemes at a cost not exceeding £6k inclusive of VAT;

8.2 and to prepare a tender for the survey research of a stratified sample of claimants and practitioners of each scheme if the Law Society and Marsh confirm in writing that they will assist in the distribution of such questionnaires

In the February 2010 board meeting minutes, the decisions of January had translated into inaction :

“10.3 AP updated all present on the progress of the Master Policy and Guarantee Fund Research. AP is still waiting on a response from the LSS and will ask for a response by the 5th March. “

By March 2010, little further action had taken place, and the SLCC Board meeting heard :

“AP updated the Board on the progress of the research currently being undertaken. The Board expressed increasing frustration at the lack of information being provided by the LSS on the Master Policy. The Board wish to be in a position to complete the research by the end of the financial year.

By May 2010, again, little had changed although the SLCC’s board were told that Marsh were not likely to give any more information on the Master Policy :

“11.1 AP updated Members and reported that research continued to be undertaken in terms of the Master Policy. Members expect to be in a position to complete the research by the end of the financial year.”

By July, 2010, it appears disaster had struck the SLCC’s intentions to do anything with regard to monitoring claims against the Master Policy, with the board meeting of that month hearing :

“5.1 Master Policy and Guarantee Fund: A verbal update was given which touched upon the issues of the time it was taking to obtain information, and the fact that information may never be forthcoming from Marsh as they are under no legal obligation to provide it and because of commercial sensitivity may not be able to provide it. A discussion took place on the merits of splitting the research and Members agreed to separate research in relation to Master Policy and Guarantee fund and press on with research on the Guarantee Fund.”

A legal insider this morning condemned the amount of time the SLCC had wasted over moving on its remit to monitor claims against the Master Policy & Guarantee Fund.

He said : “The SLCC have been around for nearly three years and should have had all this in hand when they opened for business on October 1st 2008. It is ridiculous for the SLCC’s board to sit around discussing what is to be done when we all know what needs to be done, which is a forceful audit of all claims made against the Master Policy & Guarantee Fund.”

A client who has been attempting to make a claim against the Master Policy for over two years said the SLCC were obviously not interested in looking into claims if all they have done in two years is talk about it’.

He said : “I have a pile of letters between the Law Society, Marsh and me which go back over two years yet I am no further forward with my claim and the SLCC have done nothing. Life is clearly cheap at the SLCC when it comes to trying to get them to investigate whether you are going to get your money back after your lawyer has stolen it.”

However, I can reveal today the SLCC have now been invited to monitor at least two claims against the Master Policy, and I will report developments on this at a later date.

SLCC jobsSLCC’s Board members quick to claim expenses, not so quick to help consumers. While the SLCC has no explanation for the ongoing difficulties it seems to encounter at every turn in relation to its monitoring role in connection with the Master Policy, the law complaints quango and the Scottish Government have started a recruitment campaign for an extra four board members to ramp up their expense claims to allegedly given the SLCC some ‘consumer credentials’. This latest attempt to dress up the SLCC, dubbed by one MSP as “a front company for the Law Society” will see three non lawyer & one extra lawyer board members being added to the SLCC’s already cumbersome, costly, and very much anti-consumer operation, as I reported earlier this month here : Quangocrats wanted : Scottish Legal Complaints Commission seek ‘non-lawyer’ board members with legal & ‘consumer’ backgrounds at £209+ a day

I doubt stuffing the SLCC’s board with extra quangocrats will do anything to promote the SLCC as a fearless defender of consumers who fall victim to the reliably crooked elements of Scotland’s legal profession, when after nearly three years, nearly half a million pounds in expenses claims, and a consumer attitude which basically stinks, there is really little to show for consumers best interests against rogue solicitors, while the Law Society of Scotland, still very clearly rule the day on complaints, claims, & court cases against the legal profession …

 

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Legal Services Bill vote by Holyrood Justice Committee will force all victims of ‘crooked lawyers’ to use Law Society’s corrupt ‘claims dodging’ Guarantee Fund

Justice CommitteeHolyrood’s Justice Committee voted through latest Law Society edicts on Legal Services Bill. THE ROAD TO RUIN for Scots wider choice of access to justice provided by the Legal Services (Scotland) Bill, took a step closer this week as the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee voted through the latest series of Law Society led re-writes of what is now becoming a decidedly consumer unfriendly piece of legislation, with MSPs voting through little publicised amendments put forward by the Law Society itself which will force any non-Law Society controlled legal service provider in the new expanded legal services market forced to contribute to, and access the existing Law Society controlled & administered Guarantee Fund, with any individual claim on the fund to be capped at £1.25 million.

Fergus EwingFergus Ewing, Minister for Community Safety & the Justice Dept couldn’t come up with independent ideas, was forced back to the Law Society Guarantee Fund. The Scottish Government’s Fergus Ewing proposed the Law Society wish to control & administer all claims by consumers against their legal representatives with the following amendment during this week’s Justice Committee session on the Legal Services Bill, saying : “Although there may be differences in nuance among us, the political view—indeed, the external view—is clearly that there must be a guarantee fund. In the absence of the ability to fund us in other directions, with insurance underwriters unable to provide some form of insurance cover—apart from anything else, the ability to insure against one’s own fraud indicates a fairly novel approach to life—there is no apparent answer apart from the utilisation, to some extent, of the Law Society guarantee fund as it exists at the moment.”

Mr Ewing continued : “For its part, the Law Society has expressed some unease about the purpose behind amendment 210 and the related amendments. It seems that, if the Law Society fund must be utilised in providing what we all agree is necessary protection to the consumer, it should have some input to regulation of individuals who have the potential to have a negative impact on the operation of that fund.”

“I hope that the matter might be agreed further down the road. However, having considered the matter at considerable length, I do not see any way round it. We must have the appropriate protection in place, and I can come up with no reasonable solution other than the Law Society fund. At the same time, I recognise the Law Society’s anxieties and concerns that we could have an influx into the profession, which could, in certain circumstances—although there is no need to exaggerate the argument—result in the fund being left vulnerable if the Law Society did not have the power to regulate in that respect.”

ScottishGovernmentThe Scottish Government – so much money, so many civil servants, still couldn’t come up with consumer protection measures for an independent Legal Services Guarantee Fund. So, the Scottish Government have basically admitted they are so stupid, have such lack of foresight, they cannot come up with an independent compensation scheme to protect consumers of legal services in Scotland under the new arrangements proposed in their own Legal Services Bill, and are therefore forced to run back to the oh-so-open arms of the Law Society of Scotland for help. Pathetic. Especially pathetic considering the Guarantee Fund is, as I reported earlier : Law Society’s ‘Guarantee Fund’ for clients of crooked lawyers revealed as multi million pound masterpiece of claims dodging corruption. In fact, the Guarantee Fund, contrary to Mr Ewing’s understanding of reality, is in such poor state it has never guaranteed anything, and with so many reports coming into this blog of failed Guarantee Fund claims, I issued an ADVISORY for clients to protect their funds from their solicitor’s dishonesty by immediately withdrawing any funds held by their solicitors.

You can read the Justice Committee’s debate on the Legal Services Bill, along with the vote to force all consumers through the Law Society controlled Guarantee Fund, here : Legal Services (Scotland) Bill: Stage 2

Legal insiders & law reform campaigners have all criticised the Justice Committee’s vote, along with the Scottish Government’s failure to put in place non Law Society controlled consumer compensation arrangements, rather than forcing people though the notoriously corrupt Guarantee Fund operated by the Law Society which allegedly pays out if solicitors or their staff have been ‘dishonest’. Many of those clients who attempt to claim against the Guarantee Fund usually fail, ensuring total financial loss for clients when their solicitors misappropriate funds.

An official from one of Scotland’s consumer organisations, who have made many recommendations on client protection against poor or dishonest solicitors called the Justice Committee’s vote on the Guarantee Fund issue “a poor day for consumer protection against dishonest lawyers” and also went onto accuse the Scottish Government of incompetence in not coming up with independently run compensation schemes to cover the ever rising levels of dishonesty & fraud in the Scottish legal services market.

She said : “For the Legal Services Bill to force consumers who fall victim to dishonesty by a legal services provider to have to claim against the Law Society controlled Guarantee Fund is a recipe for disaster. This move shows how little the Scottish Government has thought through what should have been reforms to access to justice for the benefit of consumers. For MSPs to vote through such a proposal, shows us how little they understand about the realities of attempting to make a claim against the Guarantee Fund.”

She continued : “It is well known clients who are forced to claim against the Guarantee Fund for dishonesty encounter just as many problems as those who attempt to claim against the Law Society’s Master policy for compensation due to solicitors negligence. With the Law Society in control of the Guarantee Fund, preferring to shift many claims which should fall into the category of dishonesty to the even more difficult category of negligence, there is in reality little chance of consumers ever seeing their money again, while the solicitor stood accused of dishonesty or negligence usually continues in business unaffected by what they have done.”

A Justice Department insider asked why the Government was not able to come up with an alternative independent solution for consumer compensation arrangements simply replied : “The Law Society don’t want an independently operated or policed compensation scheme, so consumers wont get it.”

A client who has attempted to claim against the Guarantee Fund for the loss of £135,000 as a result of his solicitors ‘dishonesty’ which occurred four years ago said : “The Guarantee Fund is corrupt. The Law Society keep delaying my claim to make sure I don’t get a penny. If any of these stupid msps at the Parliament had their money stolen by a lawyer and had tried to claim against the Guarantee Fund they would know exactly what goes on. They are just taking the Law Society’s orders passing this caper which will make sure no one gets a penny when their lawyer, non-lawyer or whoever is doing their legal work runs off with the money. I’m disgusted at them.”

EXCLUSIVE Lawyer sued for 1millionSolicitor John G O’Donnell faced over 21 client claims for negligence & more of dishonesty – the Law Society worked to kill off all the claims. Don’t think it could happen to you ? With solicitors & law firms running out of cash to keep their business afloat, embezzlement of client funds has become a common occurrence as the recession bites and legal business falters along with all other areas of the economy so be warned, your once friendly solicitor wont think twice about using any monies held on your behalf for their own ends and when clients eventually discover what happened to their money, a tear filled dash to the Law Society of Scotland or the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (who after two years are still not in a position to ‘monitor’ claims to the Guarantee Fund) will not secure one penny in repayment.

Law Society of ScotlandThe Law Society are happy MSPs voted through continued Law Society control over compensation claims. Not surprisingly, the Law Society of Scotland are very happy the Scottish Government proposed their idea to force all non-lawyers & entrants into the Scottish legal services market to pay into the Society controlled Guarantee Fund, while also capping claims at a set limit of £1.25 million. The developments, have been ‘welcomed’ in the most recent media release from the Law Society of Scotland on the Legal Services Bill, where its latest President, Jamie Millar said :“We welcome the opportunity to work with the Justice Committee and the government to further discussions on the compensation fund arrangements. It’s an important and complicated issue and the Society is committed to help find a solution which will meet the needs of traditional law firms and new licensed providers and also protect consumers.”

Clearly the Law Society is very good at pulling the strings of our gutless politicians … the Law Society speaks, and MSPs vote “Yes” – no consumers are safe with these kinds of arrangements in place …

John SwinneyJohn Swinney’s confrontation with former Law Society chief revealed the Law Society refuses to compensate victims of crooked lawyers and will target clients who dare. Perhaps if the Scottish Parliament had bothered asking people who had attempted to claim against the Guarantee Fund or Master Policy for their views, and granted victims an audience to appear before the Justice Committee to tell of their experiences & be questioned on what happened, MSPs would have been more wiser to the dangers of attaching any credibility to the Law Society’s policy on claims against its members, as was revealed by the Cabinet Secretary for Finance John Swinney, who in opposition revealed a very different side to claims against dishonest & crooked lawyers when he confronted the now former Law Society Chief Executive Douglas Mill over the Law Society’s policy to defeat claims made against crooked lawyers. You can watch the video of John Swinney’s confrontation with Douglas Mill, which led to Mr Mill’s resignation as Law Society Chief Executive, here : John Swinney v Douglas Mill on corruption in claims at the Law Society

The Legal Services (Scotland) Bill originated from a ‘supercomplaint’ filed by consumer organisation Which? to the Office of Fair Trading in 2007, alleging lack of competition in Scotland’s solicitor only dominated legal services market. The Law Society of Scotland initially rejected the OFT’s call for an investigation into the Scottish lawyer monopolised legal services market.

The SNP controlled Scottish Government joined the Law Society and initially rejected any idea of legal services reform then, after the legal profession decided it would be better to take the issue and control it themselves, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill ‘changed his mind’ and the Legal Profession Bill was created, but was renamed as the Scottish Government felt it sounded more like a protectionist bill to maintain the Law Society of Scotland’s grip over access to legal services in Scotland, hence the change of title to what its present identity, the Legal Services Bill.

The Legal Services (Scotland) Bill has been re-written by the Law Society, through the Scottish Government to ensure the legal profession, represented by the Law Society retains its dominance in the Scottish legal services market. As things stand with the current amendments, and more to come, there will be little actual benefit to Scots with this bill, certainly with the Law Society remaining in charge, and the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission being about as much help as a dead duck house, I see no gains for consumers of legal services, no gains for access to justice in Scotland, not at least, until someone has the decency to remove the Law Society’s power of regulation over Scotland’s increasingly dishonest legal profession …

Where are you, Which? and the OFT ? … Scots consumers are getting a raw deal here while the legal profession co opts the reforms you both asked for … how about speaking up rather than allowing the unelected Law Society of Scotland to dictate how Scots should access justice & legal services ….

 

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Scottish Government plan to regulate non-lawyer ‘will writers’ may see Law Society regulate all complaints against mishandled wills, legal business in Scotland

Fergus EwingCommunity Safety Minister Fergus Ewing announces regulation for non-lawyer will writers. FERGUS EWING, the Scottish Government’s Community Safety Minister standing in for the Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill announced the latest round of amendments to the Legal Services (Scotland) Bill which include the regulation of non-lawyer will writers in Scotland, some of whom have been targeting people with the same sharp practices so often employed by solicitors & law firms who, as the complaints statistics reflect, still represent the greatest threat to deceased clients wills & executry estates.

However, there is a deadly twist in the plans announced by the Scottish Government, which may well end up ensuring any non-lawyer will writing services and indeed any new entrants to Scotland’s legal services market, are regulated by the Law Society of Scotland, as no other regulatory bodies have indicated they intend apply to Scottish Ministers to be ‘approved regulators’ for the expanded legal services market which the Legal Services (Scotland) Bill is designed to reform, aiming to bringing wider access to justice for Scots consumers of legal services, many of which are currently available through solicitor members of the Law Society of Scotland.

Law Society of Scotland & ICASAccountants regulator ICAS had intended to apply as an ‘approved regulator’ although the Law Society are now viewed as the ‘favoured applicant’ by Scottish Ministers. Initially the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS) had announced they were considering making a bid to become an ‘approved’ regulator in the reformed legal services market, however ICAS have not updated their position on the issue, and with the dithering, anti-client Scottish Legal Complaints Commission also undecided about whether it will apply to the Scottish Government as an ‘approved regulator’ of legal services, the only contender for regulating any new entrants to Scotland’s currently solicitor only legal services sector is the Law Society itself, leaving the possibility the infamous solicitor’s self regulator may well use its dominant position to force out new entrants to the legal services market it may see as competition to its own solicitor members.

As I am in favour of regulating non-lawyer will writers, I have no huge problems with the Scottish Government’s proposals, however the fact nothing has been done to protect the public from the Law Society of Scotland’s poor regulation of solicitors & law firms who in many cases, deliberately mishandle a deceased client’s estate simply to ramp up their own firm’s profits & personal finance deals with some of the major High Street banks on the back of assets of deceased clients, means there is still effectively no protection for Scots consumers when it comes to wills & executries.

Allowing the Law Society to regulate the entire wills & executries sector where the Law Society has already proved it cannot regulate its own member’s conduct on handling wills & the assets of deceased clients, will not improve consumer protection nor help reduce the huge amount of will fraud in Scotland, whether such frauds are committed by lawyers, or non-lawyers.

Law Society of ScotlandLaw Society of Scotland covers up too many complaints against wills & executry estates to protect rogue lawyers. It all comes down to poor regulation, and with estimates of solicitors siphoning off tens of millions of pounds a year from wills & executry estates in Scotland, and getting away with it because the Law Society continually whitewashes complaints made by families, beneficiaries and sometimes even charities, then until a fully independent regulator is created to ensure complaints against all legal services, including particularly wills & executries, the mere window dressing for one part of the industry, while leaving the lion’s share of will handling to the even worse regulated legal profession, will do nothing to protect members of the public and their bequests to families & friends etc …

The Scottish Government’s proposals, announced earlier this week by Community Safety Minister Fergus Ewing are as follows : Legal Services Bill to regulate non-lawyer will writers with the actual amendments lodged at the Scottish Parliament : Amendments to Legal Services Bill : non-lawyer will writers (pdf)

ScottishGovernmentScottish Government announcement on non-lawyer will writer regulation. The proposed amendment to the Legal Services (Scotland) Bill follows a consultation process, and would apply a set of regulatory rules, enforcement measures and sanctions to ensure non-lawyer will writers conform to acceptable industry practice. It will bring to an end an era where consumers have been vulnerable to non-regulated practices which are often unnecessarily expensive (the same couldn’t happen in a solicitor’s office, of course …)

One example of this was when an elderly client was charged £1,000 for a straightforward will in a non inheritance tax estate. That client was driven to her bank by the will writer to withdraw the money in cash to pay the fee. In another case, consumers wanting a will have been sold specialised services they do not require. In some cases they are being persuaded to pay up to £2,400 when a simple will costing £150 would suffice. (similar stories have been told where solicitors have done the same to their clients …)

Fergus EwingCommunity Safety Minister Fergus Ewing said: “That is why we intend to regulate non-lawyer will writers. Yesterday, I lodged amendments to the Legal Services (Scotland) Bill to provide for such regulation. A number of persons and organisations have made representations to us about non-lawyer will writers, providing examples of poor practice. These include lack of skill and competence; “cold calling”; and advice based on English law. We are very concerned that some non-lawyer will writers may be exploiting the lack of regulation to the detriment of the consumer in Scotland.”

“The regulation will continue to allow non-lawyers to provide a will writing service, but will protect consumers by ensuring that such will writers are subject to robust regulatory rules, enforcement measures and sanctions. However, we will not regulate individuals preparing their own will, with or without a DIY pack, including “deathbed” wills, or other persons providing a free advice service.”

The Scottish Government consultation on the regulation of non-lawyer will writers took place between December 18, 2009 and February 19, 2010. The consultation paper sought views on the possible regulation of non-lawyer will writers in Scotland. The Legal Services (Scotland) Bill (“the Bill”), which was introduced in the Scottish Parliament on September 30, 2009, provides a legislative vehicle to provide for regulation of non-lawyer will writer services in Scotland. Following representations made to it, the Scottish Government is concerned that some non-lawyer will writers may be exploiting the lack of regulation to the detriment of the consumer in Scotland.

As well as individual instances of poor practice, it is possible to identify some main themes, including the following:

* Lack of skill and competence * Poor knowledge of inheritance tax * Advice based on English law * Low advertised costs translating into substantial fees through bait and switch and tying in of other services * Cold calling and unsolicited mail * Lack of professional indemnity insurance * Poor storage of wills

The consultation responses indicated that there is almost overwhelming support for regulation of non-lawyer will writers amongst the respondents. Indeed, 45 out of the 48 respondents are in favour of such regulation. As to the method of regulation, the vast majority of respondents are in favour of using the same model as outlined in Part 3 of the Bill. The regulation will continue to allow non-lawyers to provide a will writing service, but, at the same time, will protect consumers, by providing a set of regulatory rules, enforcement measures and sanctions that would apply to such non-lawyers. It is not the aim to regulate individuals preparing their own will, with or without a DIY pack, including “deathbed” wills, or other persons providing a free advice service.

Michael ClancyMichael Clancy, the Law Society’s Director of ‘Law Reform’. Michael Clancy of the Law Society unsurprisingly supported the Scottish Government’s plans to regulate non-lawyer will writers, as the plans had come about from orders representations made by the Law Society of Scotland to Scottish Ministers, where the society clearly wishes to retain it’s regulatory role & power over all entrants to Scotland’s legal services market. Mr Clancy said : “We’re very pleased that the Scottish Government has taken on board the representations made by the Society and others about the regulation of will writers. We firmly believe that non-lawyer will writers who provide a service for a fee should be regulated to ensure that members of the public are protected and can be sure that they are getting good advice at a reasonable cost.”

Since members of the public are currently not protected from solicitors mishandling wills, nor are clients getting good advice from solicitors at reasonable costs, how would allowing the Law Society to regulate non-lawyers improve consumer protection ? The answer is clearly it wouldn’t, but it would of course, maintain the Law Society’s power base and hold over the Scottish legal services market, which the Law Society is clearly intent on holding onto, at whatever cost.

As far as the individual instances of poor practice listed by the Scottish Government in their press release are concerned, most or all of the instances quoted in reference to non-lawyer will writers also apply to the services of a solicitor, which begs the question why the Scottish Government are content for the Law Society of Scotland to poorly regulate thousands of complaints about solicitors mishandling wills & estates, while introducing new regulation to oversee non-lawyer will writers.

Lack of skill & competence – which many solicitors seem to suffer from when they are found out after robbing a deceased’s estate of a few hundred thousand pounds for their own personal benefit. Indeed, lack of skill & competence is one of the favourite excuses for the Law Society of Scotland to cover such cases up, with a slap on the wrist for the solicitor concerned, and off he goes to work once again to ruin someone else’s will .. and again, and again, and again …

Poor knowledge of inheritance tax – again, another rampant issue in the legal profession, and speaking from experience in the case of Borders solicitor Andrew Penman, of Stormonth Darling solicitors Kelso, who ignored up to eleven letters from the Inland Revenue on inheritance tax, prompting the Inland Revenue to contact me directly, well … what more needs to be said ?

Low advertised costs translating into substantial fees through bait and switch and tying in of other services –The same happens in a solicitors office when it comes to dealing with a will. Just watch how quickly huge overdraft accounts are opened on a deceased’s client’s estate with the solicitor’s bank, gaining the solicitor cheap personal finance deals using the deceased’s client’s assets as cover in what is one of the most common ‘scams’ known in executry work.

Lack of Professional Indemnity Insurance – which solicitors do have, in terms of the Master Insurance Policy, run by the US owned insurers Marsh, who pled guilty to fraud & bid rigging criminal charges in the USA along with Royal Sun Alliance on behalf of the Law Society of Scotland. However, the Master Policy hardly ever pays out, and if victims of solicitor will fraud try and make a claim against either the Master Policy for negligence, or the equally corrupt “Guarantee Fund” compensation scheme run by the Law Society, sheer hell is unleashed, making sure claims fail on a routine basis.

It should also be noted I reported earlier on the personal cost of trying to claim against solicitors Professional Indemnity Insurance which revealed Suicides, illness, broken families and ruined clients reveal true cost of Law Society’s Master Policy which ‘allows solicitors to sleep at night’

Poor storage of wills – indeed, I could write about hundreds of solicitors who are or have been the subject of complaints to the Law Society where original wills have went missing, to be replaced with doctored versions giving intricate & costly duties to the solicitor never intended by the deceased client, and in some bizarre cases, even leaving legacies to the solicitors themselves.

I have reported in earlier articles on the difficulties & dangers of allowing a solicitor to handle wills & executry work, particularly focussing on one of the primary dangers of making a solicitor an executor of a will – something I would not recommend anyone ever try as such a decision will lead to many problems for those left behind to deal with. You can read my earlier report on this topic here : Consumer warning on wills : Don’t make your lawyer your executor as soaring cases of ‘will fraud’ show Law Society closes ranks on complaints

Reprinted from my earlier report are a few examples of solicitors defrauding wills & executry estates, which it appears the Scottish Government are still content to allow by leaving regulation of lawyers in the hands of lawyers, and thus denying the Scots public the total consumer protection of fully independent regulation of legal services in Scotland.

You decide who should be protected from whom after reading these examples :

Example 1

will photo  stockSolicitor ripped off dead client & family, paid huge interest to his own Bank. An elderly man recently deceased had left his home, possessions & sizeable investments to his wife & family in what he obviously thought was a simple straight forward will, making the mistake of appointing his solicitor as his executor. The first thing the solicitor did was open up three overdraft accounts with a local High Street bank which coincidentally, the solicitor also deals with on a business & personal basis. Over the three years the solicitor took to process his deceased client’s estate, the High Street Bank received a staggering £27,000 in interest alone on the overdraft accounts, despite there being no debts on the deceased’s estate. Documents also now reveal the solicitor negotiated some cheap personal finance from the same High Street bank to purchase a second home.

The widow of the deceased, upon being told the investments in the will had been cut in value by three quarters, made a complaint to the Law Society of Scotland after discovering through careful investigation her late husband’s investments had been changed around by the solicitor at his own discretion rather than being realised and handed over to the family as per the instructions contained in the will. Now the Law Society have backed the solicitor against the family, despite a £250,000 loss being incurred in the late husband’s investments, together with the loss of title deeds to the home in which the widow still lives, while it seems the solicitor has experienced a remarkable increase in his own personal wealth, along with 3 recent top of the range cars.

Example 2

will photo  stockSolicitor & accountant ripped off client’s charitable donations via her will. The result of the charitable intentions of a deceased elderly nurse who bequeathed her substantial entire savings including her house, in total valued at over £2 million to charitable causes, has so far resulted in not one of her wishes being respected by the solicitor and a long time friend, an accountant, she made executors of her will.

Charities who were named in the initial will have, after two years, yet to receive a penny, while again, a local High Street Bank has received over £18,000 in interest on several overdraft accounts opened by the solicitor allegedly to pay debts on the estate which never existed. Meanwhile the solicitor has also bought himself a second house, as has the deceased’s’ long time friend’ the accountant, and the charities who were due to receive sums of money are now questioning whether they will receive anything, given a recent letter to one charity from the solicitor suggesting “there was little left in the estate to cover the charitable bequests” – this despite the fact the nurse had no debts whatsoever, and owned her own home.

The paralegal who brought this case to the attention of Law Society of Scotland has been sacked from solicitor’s law firm, and since there is no one to independently monitor how the solicitor and accountant, both acting as executor, have so fraudulently mishandled the estate of their client (and victim) nothing will probably be done against those who have so obviously plundered the estate of their dead client. Even the charities themselves are apparently reluctant to make a complaint to the Law Society of Scotland, possibly because a fleet of solicitors wives and family relatives sit on one of the charities concerned.

Example 3

will photo  stockSolicitor stole 400k from will, no action by Law Society. A solicitor named as executor in an estate of an elderly unmarried man who had no surviving family, dying three years ago, tore up the original will of his client, and replaced it with one he had created to cover up the fact that a whopping £400,000 has disappeared from his deceased client’s bank accounts.

The will, which left a substantial bequest to a care home managed by the deceased’s local authority, has also seen the usual huge payments of interest fees to a local High Street Bank, in one case alone of £14,000 of pure interest, the same bank handling the solicitor’s law firm accounts.

The local authority had questioned when the bequest was to be made over to them, after being told by the solicitor there was little left to pay out his client’s wishes. The Law Society are supposedly still looking into the case, with as yet no action against the solicitor concerned.

Example 4

will photo  stockSolicitor acting as executor stole over £30,000 from children’s trust. A deceased soldier who appointed his lawyer as executor, leaving everything to his wife & children, has unwittingly placed his family in the position of having to endure sickening refusals by the legal profession to do anything to recover over £30,000 of investments which were placed in a trust by the deceased client, for his children. The solicitor, acting as executor, cashed in the trust and used it to pay off gambling debts which everyone including the Law Society is now trying cover up.

If the Scottish Government are keen to protect members of the public and their wills, taking self regulation away from the legal profession, who appear to be causing most of the damage against people’s wills should be a primary objective of the Legal Services Bill …

 

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