Solicitors From Hell -- Real life experience
A curious little matter dropped onto my desk last week - one of many at the moment, actually; there just don't seem enough working hours in the day.
Essentially, it seems that we provided communication services to firm of solicitors who are now subject to an Intervention under s35 and Schedule 1 of the Solicitors Act 1974. We were approached by the firm who are acting as Intervention Agents on behalf of the Solicitors Regulation Authority to confirm detailed information about our client and re-direct their phone lines to the offices of the Intervention Agents. Initially, I found out, these requests were made via a phone call to the support dept. and then, when information was not forthcoming from that member of staff, a firmly word fax hinting that they were on the cusp of applying for a court order to compel us to provide the information required.
Being the most cautious of all risk-averse people, my data protection spiny senses were initially sent into overdrive at the mere thought of all this.
I did a little research as to exactly what our obligations were, checked out the firm acting as Intervention Agents and the firm being investigated. My preliminary research bore their fax and phone calls out.
A quick flick through the Solicitors Act didn't seem to reveal anything as to what our obligations were to provide this information and how it sat with the relevant Data Protection legislation. I was left with no alternative then, than a rummage through the depths of the Data Protection Act, something I hadn’t done in well over a year, since early on in my LLM. It didn’t take me long to find that this situation pretty much fell squarely under s31 of the Act, covering exemptions from the Subject Information Provisions in relation to regulatory activity.
So that was more or less that then. I was shocked at how prominently the firm being investigated featured on the web from previous clients who’d had their fingers burnt. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I also found that they were featured on the Solicitors From Hell website. I’d not heard of this site until last Thursday; since then, I’ve noticed that Charon QC and Aimless Wanderer have both mentioned it. I should imagine that a lot of lay people out there believe that all firms of solicitors should feature on that site!!
Still, this bit of excitement made a change from drafting and reviewing endless contracts, resolving number portability conundrums and advising on stuff under the Communications Act – plus strategising how to prod, poke or otherwise coerce OFCOM into action over a specific issue.