Touching a raw nerve

I SEEM to have touched a raw nerve with my previous letter, but I remain unrepentant.

Every in-house lawyer who deals with solicitors in private practice on a regular basis will recognise a few of these familiar traits.

The solicitor who, despite being given clear and copious instructions, does not follow them but subsequently writes a four page letter as to why he has not done so.

The solicitor who regards precedents produced on word processors (whether his own firm or a competitor's) as sacrosanct. As a result he can only be persuaded to seek amendment with the greatest reluctance. Some precedents are horrifying. One produced by a medium-sized London firm contains a proviso making "time of the essence" of the agreement, this being effectively hidden in the "no waiver by forbearance" clause.

The solicitor who sends engrossments for sealing in complete multi-million pound financing packages without a word of explanation, and invariably too late for the client to make effective representations.

If, as is likely, a major London firm is concerned then invariably the matter is dealt with by an assistant solicitor who is still wet behind the ears. However, you could be forgiven when perusing their bill for supposing the matter to have had the exclusive attention of the senior partner.

The solicitor who won't attend a meeting alone, but brings an assistant solicitor for whose time you'll be expected to pay…

The following is, I hope, a one-off, but as an example it is apposite of a time when solicitors are seeking to increase their charges for conveyancing.

At a department of a top-name London firm, one glance at the plan sufficed to show that it was inaccurate. When I spoke to the solicitor responsible it transpired that he did not have a scale ruler.

What was worse was that he did not know where in the conveyancing department to lay his hands on one. I, the commercial lawyer client, possessed a scale ruler and possibly saved the convey-ancer from a future compensation claim.

I would not attempt to deny that there are some very fine lawyers in private practice. However, the chilling thought which keeps me awake at night is that the level of competence exhibited by solicitors could be mirrored in other professions such as doctors or dentists.

Brian Ellingsworth,

Grimbles Oast.