Has Solicitors from hell website sold out?
The founder of a website which invites disgruntled clients to vent their spleen has escaped huge damages after his first libel threat ended in settlement.
Solicitor Scott Eason agreed to waive claims for up to £100,000 damages in his High Court action against www.solicitorsfromhell.co.uk in exchange for a full apology.
Leading libel firm Carter-Ruck, representing Mr Eason, published the apology in full and announced the settlement would ensure the website could never publish similar criticisms of the firm again.
In the apology to Mr Eason, website owner Rick Kordowski said: “I did not know at the time of publication that the allegations were false, but I now understand they are.
“On that basis, they should never have been published.
I get the whole freedom of expression stance and the public good it does through warning would-be clients about certain firms of solicitors they might want to avoid. This too, in many respects, should be regarded as being good for the profession in that it acts an additional watchdog and helps keep law firms on the straight and narrow, with clients’ needs at the forefront of their concern.
But how accountable and dependable is that watchdog? Having a look over the site again, it strikes me as being more akin to a central forum for rants and raves from clients who, after having had a bad day at the office, are looking for a quick and easy avenue to vent their grievances. Clients are rarely renowned for their ability to exercise good judgement and being personally involved in emotional, high value situations in which their personal wealth is on the line, they are even less likely to analyse things objectively.
There are, of course, two sides to every story and whilst there are some crooked solicitors out there, the problem is arguably overstated. Unless there’s a lot of research and validation on the front-end, surely the submission process centres on a take action first and ask questions later kind of set up? What kind of background checks are done? How substantiated do the allegations need to be. What’s their takedown policy? You’ll find precious few answers on SFH website.
And talking of their take-down policy, Kordowski freely admits that he’ll remove a law firm after they’ve bought one of his removal ‘packages’. Far be it for me to say, but some cynics might equate this to extortion masquerading as philanthropy. The tiered payment options started at £99 extending to £299 (with the label ‘most popular’ adorning the most expensive option) smacks of a well thought out business model rather than a garage-ran vigilante fight for the cause kind of thing.
And given that the agreements hinge on future mentions being removed also, how does that square with the supposed philanthropic aims being behind the site’s creation?
But I don’t know. On balance, I guess, it’s still good that this site is available. Some of it goes too far in my opinion and does itself a disservice in coming across as petty (the link saying, ‘if you’re from Firm X click here” which opens a pop up window featuring some charmer flipping you the bird, being a case in point).
Plus, it just seems to me that solicitors from hell is veritable honeypot for libel claims. Is running the site really worth the risk, hassle and stress?