We have had lawyers in the family since before 1900 and one of my daughter-in-law’s direct ancestors was at school with Doctor Johnson and subsequently became Lord Chief Justice. My youngest son is due to take his bar finals this summer. This affects our outlook on life. We feel affinity with farmers and their ilk because of the continuity. At some point during my early professional career perhaps following the convulsions of 1968 there was a change in emphasis between duties and rights.. Clients have become consumers and solicitors have become fee earners. Globalisation has heralded the arrival of the megafirm which means that the majority of solicitors and executives are answerable to the firm before the client because if you do not own the firm and the client complains it is the firm that decides your fate rather than the client.
2008 was a momentous year. Several household national and local firms that in some cases had been in existence for 200 years or more went out of business or became part of a larger conglomerate.. Many of the banks provided evidence of strange behaviour. This must be very disturbing for the public. Clients and potential clients need reassurance. They need professional advisers that they can trust implicitly and not merely treat them as a mere opportunity for enrichment of the service provider. You can guarantee that when I receive a telephone call from someone who I have never met and calls me my first name that I am likely to become enraged because that person has something to sell that I do not want.
It is my belief maybe because I am a product of my age that in every case one has to consider one’s duty first to one’s clients, employees , the Courts, the banks and the public at large aswell as one’s own family before questioning any rights. The Solicitors Regulation Authority(SRA) is well meaning and helpful, providing us with guidance as to how we should behave. Regulations are not always helpful. They provide an excuse to be awkward with the client who merely wants advice. The requirements of the SRA for keeping a database of all our clients identity go far beyond the Moneylaundering Regulations themselves, but the Government itself has imposed various duties upon us that override our duties to our clients. Suspicions rather than proof have to be reported to the Serious Organised Crime Agency, which never acknowledges referrals.
A vast increase in the number of qualified solicitors is more likely to make more potential clients feel included with a wider choice and no one should regret the passing of the closed shop with Latin no longer an entry requirement, but if we are to rebuild trust then duty should be at the forefront of our consideration rather than any perceived immediate rights to prosperity .The world owes us nothing. Lawyers are a privileged species. We need to put something back.