Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Compliance rules viewed as ridiculous as the Law Society who enforce them

Good old rules, where would be we without them but lawyers can certainly bend them to suit as many have found out over the years.

While some are calling for the legal profession & public to heal the problems of the past, others would rather continue with full steam ahead against the client ...

The Scotsman reports :

Ridiculous nature of the compliance rules


"DO AS I say, not as I do" seems to be the motto of politicians. They love making life difficult for everyone but themselves.

Compliance is the growth industry fuelling the public sector with its armies of watchdogs and paperpushers.

There are hosts of examples but let's stick with the legal profession. Since the lawyer-bashers first arrived in their free taxis at Holyrood, they and their Westminster counterparts have had their knives into us, and into the contracting and commercial freedom of our clients. An elderly spinster can't sell her house without having to answer nosey questions about her private affairs – whether, despite a life of impeccable respectability, she has in fact been harbouring a husband, or a "bidie-in", of her own or the opposite sex.

If we don't suppress our civility and invade her privacy in this impertinent manner, we are negligent. The fact that she submissively accepts our questions and answers them politely does not mean the inquiry is fair, it simply demonstrates her resigned acceptance of government-driven invasiveness. "You can't fight city hall" and all that.

Suppose the same lady is strapped for cash and has decided to downsize her house, which is not in a sought-after area. Before she can do so, our enlightened legislators are going to force her to cough up £600 for a "single survey report" on the house she might not get an offer for at all, and she won't recoup the cost from the buyer if she does sell.

Still, the beaks know best. Hardship for one old dear is in the interests of the fat cats allegedly paying for multi-surveys in the posh areas. It's Edinburgh justice. And any solicitor who dares to try to avoid her incurring this cost will be jumped on from a great height by the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.

The vindictive second-raters queuing up for appointment to this quango are salivating at the chance to catch us out. Like all such bodies, compliance to the letter of the legislation will be their priority. You may provide the fastest, cheapest, politest service in history, but if you can't show them your engagement letter, of suitably incomprehensible length, and your money-laundering documentation, proving that you made all the cheeky inquiries expected of you, then you will be the deadest of dead meat.

But, surely, you might think, our political masters are more interested in real sin than mere technical infringement – it's the spirit that counts, not the letter. If you act in good faith, you'll not get spanked. Oh no? Here's a hard-pressed solicitor up before the Commission. The complainer says he has been charged an extortionate £200 for his house purchase. He lies (yes, this is the first time a complainer has ever lied) that he wasn't told he would have to pay so much.

The solicitor did tell him at the first meeting, but, in the hurly-burly, overlooked sending the client a letter confirming the fee. Never mind, the solicitor thinks, "I am confident I will be exonerated of any intentional wrongdoing". What chance the Commission will be interested in such an excuse? I would say zero at best – the words "cloud" and "cuckooland" come to mind.

Which is why it is diverting to see such a line being pled by one of our masters, whose party in government presided over introduction of much of this bureaucratic oppression.

I'm ready to accept, if demonstrated, an absence of personal moral guilt. But that's not the point: if good faith doesn't get the rest of us off a hook, it shouldn't excuse the ones who made the hooks in the first place. Merry Christmas to all my fans.

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