Guest post from Forbes Solicitors: Trust me, I am a Lawyer

Trust me, I am a Lawyer
By David Mayor at  Forbes Solicitors

I cannot be the only one getting pretty sick of hearing about compensation culture, increasing motor insurance premiums caused by greedy Solicitors in “grubby offices”, and the fact that society as we know it is sagging to its collective knees under the weight of personal injury claims.

I cannot help thinking that it is about time we got a grip.  In and amongst the arguing, back-stabbing, and high-horseness, everybody seems to have forgotten what a Solicitor actually does.

The Cambridge dictionary describes a Solicitor as “a type of lawyer in Britain and Australia who is trained to prepare cases and give advice on legal subjects and can represent people in lower courts”.  A lawyer is “someone whose job is to give advice to people about the law and speak for them in court”.

The fundamental principal of both definitions is that the law has to have already been made in order for advice to have been given.  Sure, there are occasions when a case will unexpectedly end up in the Supreme Court and change a thread of common law forever, but on an everyday basis we as Solicitors take instructions from client, tell them what the law is, and advise on their options.  It has always been like that and it always will be.

I should take exception to the plethora of articles blaming me, as a personal injury lawyer, for causing accidents, increasing claims, and making everybody’s insurance premiums rise, but I do not.  The simple reason for that is that all of the accusations are borne out of ignorance, both of the law and of what a lawyer does.

Let me tell you what I do.  I talk to a client and he tells me he was in an accident in which somebdoy drove in to the back of his car.  It was the other driver’s fault, he was busy on his phone ranting about his insurance premium.  Client says he went to hospital, was diagnosed with “whiplash”, and that it may take several weeks or months to heal.  He asks what he can do.  I reply that the law of negligence allows him to seek damages for his losses.  He would like to go ahead.  I tell him that the Government removed Legal Aid for personal injury work, so he can either pay me for the work I do or he can take advantage of the Government’s alternative to Legal Aid, the Conditional Fee Agreement.  He asks what that is, and I tell him.  He likes the sound of that, and as a conscientious Solicitor who wants to do the best for my client I agree it is a good option.  The case falls within the remit of the MoJ portal scheme and I start the case.  Liability is accepted, we get a medical report without any medical records (because the Government says I am not allowed to unless the expert really needs them) and I send it to the other side.  I make the first offer, because the Government says I have to, and the other side counter, until we have an agreement.  Client gets his damages, untouched, and I get paid a set fee  based upon what the Government has told me I am supposed to get paid (after, I might add, a great deal of consultation with the ABI, APIL, Law Society, and various other interested bodies).

At what point did I make the client run a case?  I did not even know him before he first telephoned me and I certainly did not see the accident occur.  I do not know whether it did actually happen.  I do not know whether he was injured, nor whether he did go to hospital, because I wasn’t there.  I don’t know how long he will be injured for, because I am not a doctor and I do not know how soft tissues respond to strain.  I have been in two accidents myself and I did not suffer any injuries, so I did not claim, but I am open to the possibility that somebody could be injured in that way.  Who am I to dispute what an expert says?  I haven’t lied, cheated, forced a claim, exaggerated injuries, made them up completely, and if my client has I don’t even know about it.

Here is my plea to the Government, and to the people of Britain.  I don’t ask you to like me.  I understand that you hope to never set eyes on me, because I know that if you do something has gone wrong.  But I do ask you to take the time to understand what a lawyer does.  Once you have accepted that I do not make the law, I just administer it, you can focus your attention on the real villains who do actually create the law.  What you do with that information is up to you….

David Mayor  is a Personal Injury Solicitor at Forbes Solicitors.

9 thoughts on “Guest post from Forbes Solicitors: Trust me, I am a Lawyer

  1. Nicely put. I have given up having to defend my profession and now just roll my eyes and pour another large glass of wine. If clients didn’t get themselves into bother in the first place, they wouldn’t need us. And if a lawyer doesn’t inform them of their rights, who else will?

  2. Amen.

    The Government has trotted out the “grubby solicitor” mantra across the board. We’re the scapegoats for everything wrong in this nation, evidently.

    Legal Aid “out of control”? It’s got nothing to do with people being abused by spouses or Government – or being ripped off by their landlords!

    Automobile accident claims? All fake – with their fake doctors’ evidence!

    Jackson reform costs? Hey “lawyers” take your pay out of your client’s compo. Just forget that the award is supposed to be “compensation” for a loss and count yourself lucky, Mr Solicitor, because everybody knows your client could have done it all himself!

    Individuals all need to shut up and move on. Being ripped off is part of the new Conservative world-order.

    As as for solicitors – if only we could find something worthy to do with our lives!

    Isn’t it fun being told that by politicians?

  3. You are fortunate indeed that the clients walk in the door without any form of advertising or encouragement. A barrister may claim the protection of the cab rank rule and not ask too many questions but does the same apply to a solicitor- do we not have a duty to society as well as our clients to encourage and pursue only cases which are appropriate. In many cases, personal injury lawyers are doing a very essential task and very likely there is enough of that work to keep most competent personal injury lawyers busy.

  4. Many thanks for all your comments. In reply to you Barbara I would say that you cannot encourage a client to make a claim, whether by advertising or any other means, when that person has no cause of action. I agree, advertising may incite an injured person to seek advice when he would not have otherwise bothered but that will result in only one of two things; rejection of the case at the first meeting due to lack of merit, or pursuance of the case on the basis that he/she is likely to win. In the latter case it is actually wrong for the media and the Government to put pressure on that person not to pursue it because of some misguided perception of a compensation culture. The message we are being fed is that it is morally wrong, and a drain on society, for an injured party to follow a legitimate cause of action with the aim of seeking damages that they are legally entitled to. My message to the Government is that if you don’t like the consequences don’t make the laws, and don’t blame me for administering them in the way you tell me to!

  5. there is little point having the debate here. the myths about the legal profession need to be exploded in front of a lay audience. the guardian’s comment is free section is depressingly prone to the easy generalisation that ken is delighted to promote of the ‘fat cat lawyer’ and in particular the ‘fat cat legal aid lawyer’ (!) these even degenerate into the cliche more at home in the daily fail of the ‘fat cat legal aid lawyer who insists on helping terrorists stay in this country when they have no right to do so (and it’s us the taxpayers who foot the bill)’.
    we are not a popular profession. down there with bankers and estate agents. and we have done little to show up the false premise that there is but one lawyer qua lawyer who is cynical rich and exploitative.

    and i have said this before but it is not too late to help the justice for all campaign by contacting peers and urging them to oppose laspo and support the amendments. don’t let’s sit here having a cosy chat about how our wives (err sorry i mean the public) don’t understand us. WE know that. let’s tell the public.

    on a different but related note i am delighted that david pannick appears to be trying to mobilise cross-benchers against the bill. i don’t suppose jonathan sumption would be doing the same.

  6. Glad you got that orf your chest David and hope you feel better now… but really you are so lucky to have a job, just be happy and do your best!

  7. Pingback: What Is A Solicitor? | Solicitor Definition How To Become A Solicitor

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