I recently read an article in the legal press about a fraudster in the North West of England who had posed as a solicitor (and also a police officer) to con three vulnerable victims out of thousands pounds. He has now been handed a jail sentence and is subject to a ten year restraining order.
Stephen Davey is reported to have told one of his victims that his friend “Simon Davey” was a family law solicitor and would help her with legal representation in respect of an ongoing case in the family court.
However the family law solicitor did not actually exist and instead Mr Davey used the fake identity to obtain payments from the victim. He also falsely told his victim that he had employed the services of a private investigator to follow the victim’s former husband.
Mr Davey told one victim not to attend the family court for a hearing because the ‘solicitor’ would represent her in her absence. This caused the individual to miss the court hearing which could have had serious implications for her family law case.
The fraudster also told one victim that the court had a made a residence order in her favour regarding her children and also told her the court had awarded her £65,000.
The offence of holding one’s self out to be a solicitor is a serious offence albeit quite rare. It is vital that when appointing a solicitor that you undertake some basic checks before doing so.
Always research the solicitor on the internet first. Almost all legal firms (including sole practitioners) have a website and a simple Google search should take you there.
All practising solicitors are required to have an up to date practicing certificate which is issued by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). When issuing the practicing certificate the SRA allocate a unique number to each practicing solicitor. It is easy to check on the Law Society website to confirm whether the particular solicitor has a current practicing certificate and to check their SRA number. The website also gives details of when the solicitor qualified and what their area of legal specialism is.
Wherever possible, it is always best to meet your solicitor in person at their offices at the outset of your case. Not only is this a good idea so you have met in person the solicitor you are considering using, but also it will give you the opportunity of visiting their office premises.
In summary, common sense should be employed when engaging any company or individual to provide services for you. Some basic due diligence and background checks should be done as a minimum. Such checks are easy to make, especially when considering using a solicitor given that the legal profession is so highly regulated.
You would not engage the services of a builder to undertake expensive work on your house without first having checking that they are actually a builder or having checked their credentials. The same should apply to your solicitor.