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There is a story reported on the BBC News website that made my blood boil. The link is here.

As you can see, the article was reporting about the innocent victims of a very nasty legal scammer who had not only cost these people considerable sums of money, he and his team have put their legal cases in jeopardy and their personal lives in torment. 

Long story short, the legal scammers set themselves up – through a variety of different shelf companies (to limit personal liability) – as legal experts.   Hid behind a flash website that promised the earth in relation to “legal battles” dealing in family law matters.  This slick website also boasted a plethora of 5- star reviews with very happy clients.  The problem is this was all a sham.   The reviews were made-up and none of the people working for the company were Solicitors or had any of the requisite training as either a Barrister or Solicitor to represent clients in court.  One of the principles of the company, Craig Johnson (who promised “Award wining legal services”) had undertaken a law degree but had never qualified as a Solicitor or a Barrister.

The article went on to give case studies from individuals who were comprehensively duped and whose finances had been destroyed, their legal position (potentially irreversibly) damaged by the sheer incompetence of these so called “award winning legal services”. 

Being a solicitor is not just about having a law degree (or indeed any degree).  There is a tough 2-year training programme before you can become a solicitor.  Once a solicitor, the training simply does not stop, as there are continual professional development programmes that need to be undertaken to ensure that your skill level remains “top notch”.  There is also a battery of professional guidance and regulations to ensure that solicitors meet the highest of  ethical standards that the community expects in a legal representative. 

The chink in the armour, which is exploited by these scammers (sometimes called professional McKenzie Friends) is that they are – they say – cheaper than a solicitor.  Quite frankly, you absolutely get what you pay for, and the victims of the scam reported in the BBC summary paid very dearly indeed.  It is not the case that a McKenzie Friend or these types of shysters will necessarily be cheaper.  For example, at Raydens, we have a range of solicitors of differing levels of qualification to suit even the tightest of budgets.  These, generally more junior, solicitors, are fully supervised by Partners who have a wealth and knowledge of experience and expertise so that they are able to access that expertise but have the junior solicitor undertaking the majority of the work – making using Raydens a cost-effective venture.  

So, whilst I can see the immediate appeal of McKenzie Friends and non-regulated, non-trained grifters: if it appears too good to be true, it probably is. 

Given that family law (divorce, finances, and children) has such a heavy impact on your life, it is worth being extremely careful as to who you choose to work with and, at the very least, you should ensure that the person you have selected is a solicitor, is on the Role of Solicitors and is able to undertake the work their website promises you.

The other problem with McKenzie Friends and other such legal scammers, is that there is very little recourse to you if it all goes wrong.  You do not get your money back.  The court does not “reverse the clock” so as to put you back in the position you should have been.  So, you will be stuck with whichever poor position you are left in (and considerably poorer).  In contrast, if a solicitor falls short in their professional duties, the Solicitors Regulation Authority and the Law Society will step in and assist you with compensation and redress. 

So, do be careful when choosing someone to help you with what is always life altering proceedings.

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