“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place” – a quote credited to George Bernard Shaw.
As a smaller sized high street firm, we pride ourselves on communication – both internally and outward to clients. Our size allows us to be flexible and adapt quickly, which is precisely what we have had to do throughout the Covid19 Pandemic.
Issues in communication are often flagged up by our regulators, the SRA as an area in which solicitors could do better and mistakes are made. It’s nice when the mistakes are made by someone else. There are a lot of lessons to be learned in the recent case of Summerfield Browne Limited -v- Weignmouth (here ).
In a Judgment handed down by Master David Cook sitting at Royal Courts of Justice on 18 January 2021 a disgruntled former client of the law firm, Summerfield Brown was ordered to pay £25,000.00 in damages. The Judge suggested that would adequately reflect the seriousness of the defamation and the financial loss which had occurred as a result of an angry review penned by said disgruntled client.
The case centre on a short but highly critical review on the website Trust Pilot that the client’s experience had been, ‘A total waste of money another scam solicitor’ [sic]. It appears that on the facts the solicitor/client relationship was short lived – revolving around a £200.00 fixed fee retainer concerning enforcement action – but the client nonetheless was dissatisfied with the service received. It is notable that the client did not engage with the firm’s complaints procedure nor did he justify his comments on Trust Pilot.
The Court found that the comments on Trust Pilot decreased the number of weekly enquiries received by Summerfield Brown from 50-60 down to 30-40.
Other important lessons for both solicitors and clients are the importance of:
- Dealing with clients fairly, making them aware of cost and time scales up front.
- Fully engaging in complaint and grievance procedures for both sides.
- The importance of leaving accurate reviews in the public domain.
Fortunately, here at LFBB we have not faced any such negative reviews on the web (touch wood). However, we are conscious that it only takes one job for a disgruntled client to spread their comments of dissatisfaction about the firm.
The client in this case would have done better to engage in the firm’s complaints procedure than to start by slagging them off online. The consequences for his choice were £25,000 in damages and costs.
It is also an important reminder just how important an online reputation can be as a source of business for law firms. We encourage our clients to leave reviews after each job if they have found our work satisfactory (or better) and if there are any complaints, we would hope to deal with those swiftly and fairly for all involved.
If you think we are doing a good job, please let us know. Alternatively, if you are unsatisfied with any work we have carried out, please speak to us – before you go telling the world wide web!
Our lines are open on 0114 272 9721.