A contact of mine asked me a question this evening, it was a question that raised an eyebrow from me to say the least.
This is what i was asked
Q: What do you think about a solicitor offering to provide ** Paid** advice to consumers via an internet forum relating to Consumer Credit matters?
I immediately asked about the fees, and i was informed that the likely fee would be for attendance at trial, £500 circa for example with a range of other fees being charged.
Now my reply was simply HMMMMMMMMMMMMMM really? i would be very concerned about such an approach.
Firstly, to advise in consumer credit law, you need to be authorised by the FCA
Secondly, i pointed out that the question over indemnity insurance ought to be raised.
Thirdly, is the company an ABS or is the solicitor acting under the banner of his firm in which case how are the fees being distributed
Fourthly, note this, while the fee is cheaper than a barrister, (By around £190) it is worth thinking that for the fee of £500 as it was explained to me, the customer gets a mckenzie friend who has no right of audience and cannot address the Court direct without leave. A barrister has full legal training, advocacy skills, a good understanding of the law normally, and his fee is recoverable in most cases from the other side if you win.
Fifthly, what happens if the advice is wrong? who do you complain to? is the solicitor your solicitor? or is he acting for the internet forum and providing you advice. If a client instructs me, i am advising them, if i get it wrong my firm has insurance, if im negligent then the consumer can complain to the LEO and my firm is authorised by the FCA.
sixthly, are you able to recover the fees you pay out if you win? have a good think about this, are you represented? the advice i gave my friend was simply be careful, consider the options, check with the SRA that the options youre taking are approved by the SRA, check the firm has ABS status to offer legal services, check that all the necessary compliance points are covered. Yes paying for a lawyer may be slightly more expensive, however at least if it goes belly up youre protected by numerous government departments, does the same apply to this alternative option.
Solicitors normally take instructions from their clients directly, certainly at my firm clients contact me direct so that they know who is dealing with their case. They can come into my office and have a coffee with me, and speak face to face if they desire.
At least my clients who contact me, from wherever they find my contact details, can be safe in the knowledge my firm is authorised and regulated by the SRA, my firm is authorised by the FCA, it has indemnity insurances and a reputation for success. Yes it may cost a little more, but surely its worth it.
Worth a thought though in my view.