Although this article was good for some light hearted lunch time reading, it got me thinking about the way in which people view solicitors generally, and the traits which people associate with being a solicitor in today's society.
Asking google "what do people think about solicitors?" is something I can never say that I've thought to do before writing this blog, and indeed the question itself is something I didn't consider before I started my legal career. However, when I typed the above into the search bar and hit "enter" I was struck with a wave of anxiousness - what if the public hate us?
Thankfully the vast majority of articles returned on my search seem neutral to positive. Although there are some negative comments about the profession generally (and in a business centred on client satisfaction, who's surprised by that?), most people seem to realise that when they need assistance with a legal issue, their solicitor is one of the few people who can sort out the situation for them, and, using their knowledge and experience, that solicitor will guide them through the issue.
Worryingly, public opinion about what we do on a day to day basis seems to vary, mainly because of all the legal dramas which now appear on TV and other media.
So what do we actually do? What stereotypes about solicitors exist? Allow me to dispel the myths.
Solicitors use complicated language which I can't understand
A widespread belief is that solicitors use complex legal jargon which many non-solicitors don't understand. While I cannot speak for every law firm, here at MF we have a brand promise which you can see here. This promise centres on the assurance of CLARITY at every stage of the transaction.
We believe in open lines of straightforward communication, and that the best relationships are built on clarity, trust and understanding. Our promise to you is that we will be clear with you at every stage of our relationship, including explaining, or not mentioning at all, the legal jargon.
Money and fees
One common view from my Google search seems to be that solicitors charge unreasonable amounts for the work they do. While I cannot speak on whether an amount is "unreasonable" or not, people have to remember that solicitor firms are businesses too. Although this means that they have to charge a certain amount to cover their time and overheads, they also operate in a competitive market so will charge competitive prices, to ensure the client does not simply go to another law firm who is offering them a better price.
At Morton Fraser, our promise to our clients is that our costs will always be clear - and that is guaranteed. We’ll make sure that clients always know what they're paying for, and why. If we overcharge and ask a client to pay something they do not expect, then they will not be expected to pay this extra amount. This really matters to our clients because no one likes an unexpected bill.
Many people seem to believe that solicitors are arrogant and they do not have time for their clients. This is not true - here at MF we spend a lot of time on the client/solicitor relationship and we believe the client experience is just as important as the legal advice. We have had amazing feedback from clients who really appreciated how much time we spent getting to know them, and getting to know their unique requirements so we can represent them more accurately. Our "reputation" page makes it clear how much this approach is valued by our clients.
Solicitors have no morals
Another damaging stereotype is that solicitors have no morals and that they just try and get the best deal they can for their client, whether or not this comes with a price. This runs alongside the thought that solicitors are taught that there is no right and wrong they are just debating a side. I think these myths are fuelled by the many dramatic representations of Courts and legal battles on TV and in film, where the viewer is presented with an innocent person being ripped apart by the Big Bad Lawyer. I can state categorically that, while we always do our best to represent our client's interests, it is always within the boundaries of the law and with respect to our client, other solicitors and the Court.
As a trainee in 2015 and therefore someone who is at the start of my career, I feel that current trainees and NQs have a chance to reshape the way people view solicitors in an albeit small but positive way.
Gone are the days (hopefully!) of scary, unapproachable partners who have their own offices and trainees are expected to stand outside hesitantly until they are summoned forth - here at MF we work in a fully open plan office environment where partners sit among other solicitors, paralegals, secretaries, and indeed, trainees. I hope this openness and approachability is something which will last for years, and that it will be something that I can pass down to those who follow after me.
I believe that MF's clarity message, both at the advising stage and at the billing stage, will help clients change the way in which they view the interaction between solicitor and client.
And the moral of the story - don't be afraid of us: we're not as bad as we appear on TV!