Firms round on Which? study

Two law firms criticised in a Which? survey of solicitors' advice have attacked the consumer magazine's research methods and findings.

The Sheffield and Aberdeen firms' anger has re-ignited a bitter two-year war between the legal profession and the Consumers' Association, publisher of Which?

Wilsone & Duffus was criticised in a survey of 79 firms for telling a researcher posing as a client that “there won't really be definites” in dealing with a landlord who had given them one month's notice.

Ian McLeod, senior partner at the Aberdeen firm, was “more than unhappy” about the survey. He said no one in the firm could recall such a conversation and Which? had yet to return his calls. “I can't imagine us saying there were no definites,” said McLeod.

The firm is undecided on further action.

Keeble Hawson Rodgers & Howe said it was investigating Which? claims that two calls to the Sheffield firm asking for advice had been dealt with by telephone operators.

But senior partner Tony Gregory said it was curious that Which? had contacted his firm for the survey after going through Yellow Pages.

“Our Yellow Pages entry mentions only personal injury, domestic violence, family and criminal matters and we do not advertise the type of consumer problem the Which? calls were about,” said Gregory.

The survey covered four legal scenarios: how to be compensated for an exploding washing machine, a badly constructed garage roof, a landlord telling a tenant they had a month to vacate and a customer deciding they did not want double glazing they had signed up to.

The Law Society criticised the survey, saying too few firms had been asked questions in a narrow area of law.

“The survey does not cover the real and typical problems that clients see solicitors about every day,” said Law Society president Phillip Sycamore.

Which? editor Helen Parker said the Law Society had to take a more active role in the monitoring and policing of standards in firms or the government would have to take over its regulatory role.