The Legal Landscape Redefined

(Posted on 05/04/12)

For quite awhile, there's been talk of, concerns with and an overall sense of dread - at least for some - about the role of solicitors in a new legal relationship dynamic. Seems the one common denominator is the concern over fee structures. The message from the Legal Ombudsman: prepare for change.

The Legal Ombudsman reported that of the 90,000 complaints it received last year, an astonishing 25% of them were about fees solicitors were charging. Does this mean law firms are in jeopardy if they don't reconsider their pricing structures? If you believe the report, then yes, going out of business is a reasonable possibility.

Adam Sampson, Chief Ombudsman, reiterates the purpose of the agency is to serve as a mediator between solicitors and their clients who are unhappy with the service they received. For the past few years, the Legal Ombudsman has been establishing itself in preparation for the big unveil.

Another part of its purpose is to eliminate "deliberately obfuscatory language". This means the legalese many solicitors speak so naturally will likely need to be re-evaluated if that solicitor expects to remain a formidable player on the legal field.

Sampson also says that solicitors believe and will argue their point that predicting the costs of legal services is impossible, especially when factoring in the "didn't see that coming" transaction.

There's no denying transparent policies and good faith efforts have a definitive role in ethical law firms. Ideally, before these aggressive changes kick in, solicitors in the UK will be better able to find that balance. It's a challenge, no doubt; however, provided perspective is maintained, it's perfectly reasonable to believe the Legal Ombudsman service will have a positive role to play in the long term.

For those interested, there is a guide, "An Ombudsman's View of Good Costs Service" available on the Legal Ombudsman website. Solicitors can also browse the site for a wealth of information written for today's contemporary solicitor.

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