Lawyers get help in handling aggression

Local government lawyers are to receive training on how to deal with difficult people following complaints by solicitors of widespread aggression against them by both the public and work colleagues.

The courses are to be run by the Law Society Local Government Group (LGG) in response to the requests of more than 20 solicitors attending existing training courses being run by the group.

LGG training director Peter Godber said local government solicitors were sick of being hectored and intimidated by "the quite large number of people who try to bully their local authority lawyer".

He said councillors, members of the public and overly aggressive or demanding bosses were among those who were lined up against local government lawyers.

In one extreme case several years ago, a council solicitor working in the Watford area was shot at after he visited a man who had constructed a building on his property without planning permission.

However, Godber said emotional, not physical violence was the main problem faced by council staff.

Several local government solicitors have told The Lawyer of instances of heavy verbal abuse, while one complained of an attempted assault and another of being followed back to his council offices by an unhappy member of the public.

Preston Borough Council's senior solicitor Helen Jones said solicitors often found it hard to be assertive when dealing with elected councillors.

But she added that solicitors often escaped the harassment suffered by "frontline" council staff such as housing officers.

LGG chair Peter Pilgrem said his organisation welcomed the course as a sensible way of helping lawyers deal with difficult people.

The first course is due to run in May next year.