Solicitors just don’t get it, do they?

On the whole, people (that includes solicitors’ clients) like to be treated as individuals, don’t they? They don’t usually want to be treated as “just another file”, yet all too often that is exactly how solicitors treat them: they expect clients to fit into the lawyers’ procedures, not the other way around.

OK, procedures are often in place for very good reasons, and need to be followed; however, they do need to be tailored to suit individual clients’ circumstances: insisting someone calls at your office in the UK to prove their ID just does not work for a client who lives in South Africa

Similarly, with contracts: if my client is selling a business with no employees, I do not include a page and a half of clauses dealing with the effects of the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006.  They simply do not apply, and to include them, in my view, would mean I am not paying attention to that particular client – or that I simply don’t care. I have had a case recently with exactly those circumstances, and the buyer’s solicitor insisted on amending the contract to add those clauses: “just in case” !

Also, with leases: why prepare a 30-page lease that deals with lifts, high-level cleaning, security guards and electronic access when your landlord client is granting a short lease of a converted Nissen hut used as a light industrial unit: last time  I saw one, no Nissen hut had more than one floor, let alone a lift.

However, some lawyers do “throw the book” at a problem, either because they are lazy or because they are scared they might miss something. They are unwilling to make the effort to get to know their client’s circumstances and to tailor the legal work to them.

Don’t get me wrong: there are circumstances when standard conditions, etc – such as the Standard Conditions of Sale for use in property transactions – are useful; they avoid the need to re-invent the wheel. Equally, though, it is simple courtesy to one’s client – and more efficient – to tailor the job to the circumstances, rather than expecting the client to fit in with the lawyer’s business model


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