Online hell

Attempts by the lawyers to derail the Solicitors from Hell website through the courts have been repeatedly knocked back by the site’s owner, Rick Kordowski.

He is yet to pay any court awarded damages to those who have brought successful libel claims against him.

Now the profession’s representative body has decided to get tough. It has instructed Matrix Chambers’ heavyweight Hugh Tomlinson QC (see feature) to launch a claim against him on behalf of all 150,000 solicitors.

The hugely controversial site has become a thorn in the profession’s side, claiming to name and shame lawyers who have provided a poor service.

Comments can be posted anonymously and until recently any lawyer who was defamed on the site was required to pay £299 to have all current and future traces of their name removed from the site.

According to Kordowski this was preferable for lawyers rather than the costly business of litigation.

High Court judges, however, have been unimpressed. Delivering judgment in Awdry Bailey and Douglas v Rick Kordowski Mr Justice Tugndhat said Kordowski was “abusing the process of the court, seeking to cause the Claimants to incur costs which he says they have no prospect of recovering from himself. Whether his motive is to punish them for not meeting his demands for money, or for some other reason, is immaterial. He plainly has a grievance against solicitors.” (5 April 2011).

It’s inflammatory stuff.

Kordowksi stoked the coals by threatening defamation proceedings against the Law Society chief executive Des Hudson, claiming that Hudson branded him a “criminal” at the BBC studios.

Any claim will be fiercely fought, with the Law Society promising strike-out action (2 September 2011).

Kordowski doesn’t have a good track record in the courts. He is yet to defeat a single libel claim brought against him, and there have been several and more in the pipeline.

It was Mr Justice Henriques’s comments in the claim issued by Thames Valley firm Gabbitas Robins Solicitors which prompted the Law Society to act (18 April).

Henriques J said: “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.”

Yet Kordowski is unrepentant, promising to appeal the case and arguing that he is providing a forum for disappointed legal service users.

In October last year a newly launched Legal Ombudsman came into being.  

In its first six months, says Kordowski, the Legal Ombudsman has received 38,155 complaints, of which 90 per cent were rejected. “

“Does the profession really have that much to hide?” asks Kordowski.

Readers of The Lawyer.com have little time for this argument; one even suggests the courts should brand him a “vexatious litigant”.

Yet despite attempts to put some clear water between the ombudsman and the Law Society, perceptions remain that it is the puppet of the profession. That is why, says Kordowski, consumers continue to use the Solicitors from Hell website.

It  will be for the courts to decide the fate of Solicitors from Hell but that will not stop similar sites appearing.