SCB slams City litigation tactics

CITY firms have been attacked by the Solicitors Complaints Bureau (SCB) for lodging complaints against opposing firms as a tactic to gain the upper hand in litigation battles.

The censure, which forms part of the SCB's annual report for 1994, has baffled London Solicitors Litigators Association president Michael Seymour who is unaware of the practice.

An SCB spokeswoman says there are no statistics to back up the claim but staff who would have expected City firms to “know better” had noticed a clear trend.

The report states: “There is, it seems, a preponderance on the part of some practitioners, (especially City-based firms complaining about other firms in the course of commercial litigation) to seek to use the bureau as a lever to gain possible advantage.”

The spokeswoman stresses the bureau will investigate solicitor/solicitor complaints but allegations which occur while litigation is in process should be dealt with by the courts, and not the bureau.

“Complaints to the bureau should not be used as a short-cut in the litigation process, that is not on,” she says.

Seymour, litigation partner at Lovell White Durrant, says he knows nothing of the practice.

“I'm very surprised by the comments. Usually City firms can look after themselves but no doubt the SCB wouldn't have said something like this if there wasn't something in it.”

Denton Hall's senior litigator Bob Goldspink says he is aware of the phenomenon which he believes to be a product of the “all out warfare” that can break out in commercial litigation and which Lord Woolf is seeking to stop.

Elsewhere in its report, the SCB claims it has achieved its best performance since it was established despite the increase in its regulatory workload.

It does, however, note a sharp increase of 28 per cent in applications to the Solicitors Compensation Fund although it says its Cost of Default initiative means defaulting solicitors are being tackled earlier.

It adds: “The increasing cost of the bureau is not due to a rise in lay complaints or inefficiency, but to the default and dishonesty of a minority.”