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The Law Society has consulted leading media silk Hugh Tomlinson QC on potentially launching a legal action against consumer website Solicitors from Hell.
The move comes after High Court judge Mr Justice Henrique said that both the Law Society and Bar Council should investigate defamation complaints about the website.
The website claims to give consumers a forum in which they can publicly name and shame solicitors who, they allege, have provided a poor service. The website’s coordinator Rick Kordowski is facing about 15 libel law suits from solicitors.
The latest ruling delivered by Henrique J last month stated: “The time has surely arrived for the Law Society and Bar Council to consider some effective response to the conduct complained of in this case and other similar cases.
“No doubt the legal profession does, on occasion, fail those who seek its services. However, many conscientious and highly reputable firms and individuals have found themselves as objects of offensive abuse and defamatory publication at the behest of disappointed litigants.”
Responding, Wilberforce Chambers’ Nikki Singla, who represented the claimant, Thames Valley firm Gabbitas Robins Solicitors and partner Stephen Robins, wrote to the Law Society and Bar Council to request their considered response.
Today, the Law Society confirmed that it had taken legal advice in relation to two cases it wants to pursue against Kordowski.
It said: “The litigation will involve two claims run together. The first would be an action for those already listed on the website, which could be brought by one or more of them on behalf of all the others.
“The second would be an action brought by the Law Society on behalf of all solicitors not currently on the website, but who could easily end up on there. Our solicitors will be writing to all firms on the website very shortly to explain in more detail.”
Matrix Chambers’ Tomlinson, the barrister who has acted in several high-profile super-injunction cases in recent months, has been consulted on the action.
Kordowski has so far sought to use a fair comment defence to rebuff claims, but this has not appealed to the judges sitting on the cases.
In April Mr Justice Tugendhat, who oversaw a separate defamation claim against Kordowksi, said the defendant had abused court process by “seeking to cause the claimants to incur costs which he says they have no prospect of recovering from himself” (5 April 2011).
According to his website a £299 fee provides “an escape route” for lawyers listed on the site and “encourages them not to spend the £30,000 it frequently costs to pursue a libel claim against Kordowski, who is the publisher of, but not the source of, the criticism listed”.
Kordowski said the Law Society’s legal threat was an attempt to “stifle criticisms of solicitors”.
He added: “The Law Society have also made allegations of ‘blackmail’. This is denied.
“There are many ways to have a complaint removed from Solicitors from Hell. The preferred way would be for the solicitor to make amends with the author. The solicitor can communicate with me and exonerate themselves with evidence.
“The solicitor is offered a mediation service where I add my suggestions or observations to each party. All of these methods are without charge and have resulted with many published complaints being removed.
“Another is the solicitor can sue me, or simply take it on the chin and do nothing.
“Many firms and senior partners who have signed up to my ‘Administration & Monitoring’ service have said (in writing) it is a good idea and are more than pleased to pay the reasonable cost in return for copies of subsequent submissions, so they can perhaps learn from client comments.”
In a statement the Bar Council said: “We remain very concerned by the allegations made on site. We contacted the Metropolitan Police last year to bring the site to its attention, particularly the levy of a ‘removal charge’ for false allegations to be withdrawn from the site.
“We were advised by the Police that the CPS would not bring a prosecution, and in any event it was not necessary because successful civil actions had been brought against Mr Kordowski. We’ve been advised by the Metropolitan Police that members of the bar who wish to pursue a complaint against the site should seek a civil remedy. We’re advising our members accordingly.”