When is a solicitor not a solicitor?
It is indeed a wonderful world we live in where with increased technology having a global business is extremely easy. Many consumers now like to access services online and it is becoming more of a common practice to utilise services, never having had a face-to-face meeting with an adviser.
Unfortunately, the downside of this is that it’s become much easier for con men to establish bogus solicitors’ practices.
Websites are easily set up and can look all too plausible with reassuring clichés of efficiency and proprietary – not surprisingly, because these are usually stolen from the website of totally innocent and upright solicitors.
It is in the interest of both the consumer and solicitors that all agencies stamp down on this practice.
The Law Society, with the Solicitors Regulation Authority and police must be vigilant and cooperation is needed if we are to protect the reputation for trustworthiness of our profession. Finding yourself the subject of a bogus solicitor can have a dramatic and devastating effect on the victims of such fraud.
This area is fast becoming the activity of criminals and criminal gangs who are setting up bogus law firms or bogus branches of genuine law firms with very often, the intention of stealing mortgage loans.
The public need to be aware that gangs who are purely criminals are not a part of the legal profession, so there may be little that the Solicitors Regulation Authority can do to assist. This will then be a criminal matter and subject to police investigation. Solicitors themselves can and have become innocent victims of bogus firms and may find themselves subject to negligence claims though acting on the other side of a transaction to a bogus firm, albeit they may have done everything possible to verify the authenticity of the solicitors in question.
So what can the consumer do? Well, a genuine solicitor will appear on the roll of solicitors. This is administered by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. You can also search the Law Society’s Directory online.
Sometimes there are minor inconsistencies which may give rise to suspicion, such as web links that do not work or differing postal addresses. In this regard, the old adage remains true “if it looks too good to be true, it probably is”.
* Mary Kaye is the newly appointed president of Birmingham Law Society