This is a post of clarification. No blog post can be a monograph, but sometimes “mature reflection” indicates that more needs to be said.
My post on the UK Law Society (seen HERE) is one such post.
May I be taken to be endorsing the Legal Services Board in any sense? Emphatically, no.
Do I approve of the concept of a regulatory system for solicitors? Reluctantly, yes.
Do I believe that the throwing of ashtrays at staff is a matter to be addressed in a regulatory system for solicitors? No.
Do I believe that the stealing of money from clients is a matter to be addressed in a regulatory system for solicitors? Yes.
A fundamental principle should apply; no person and no group of persons should be above the law. That law should be adequate to protect the legitimate interests of the public.
In addition, it is undesirable that there be a special process for applying the law to one group of persons by comparison with any other group of persons.
(It was the failure of the Catholic church and Irish society to adopt and apply these principles to Catholic priests that facilitated wrongdoing by priests.)
In any walk of life, therefore, be it that of lawyers or priests, the throwing of ashtrays should be challenged and, if appropriate, punished, in the same forum as is used for everyone else.
Why do I distinguish the stealing of clients’ money by solicitors from that principle?
I do so because when it happens the client is immediately at a disadvantage, relative to the solicitor.
The client has voluntarily transferred, or directed the transfer, of the money to the solicitor. On that ground alone the average policeman is immediately bemused at the beginning of any hypothetical investigation of a client’s complaint. It takes a specialised policeman, from a fraud squad, to conduct that investigation. In Ireland we have inadequate resources to investigate fraud.
As a practical matter, therefore, it is a necessary evil that the regulation of solicitors exist and that it apply with full force to the management of clients’ money.
I should declare an interest in this topic; under current regulations the Irish solicitors’ profession (I belong to that group) is the collective end stop for making good money losses by solicitors’ fraud or theft, as analysed previously by me HERE.
Needless to say I want a good, efficient, policeman working on the problem when it arises.