The credibility of the Legal Ombudsman’s contention that the publication of complaints data is not about ‘naming and shaming’ was demolished within hours.

An insurance magazine was the first to report the development in terms of a ‘league table’ of wrongdoers. And it will surely get worse as regular quarterly publication enables unsophisticated observers to reach even more headline-friendly conclusions from what is (and will continue to be) highly partial information. Another legal journal alluded to a ‘list of shame’, no less; and just wait and see what the Mail titles will do with the data when it can be tracked over time.

It is doubtful, to say the least, whether googling clients-to-be are sophisticated enough to make allowances for work volumes, case profiles and so on. But some are certain to use the threat of vexatious disputation to attempt to manipulate their lawyers. How tempting will it be now for unfairly put-upon and micro-regulated solicitors to steer clear of potentially ‘difficult’ clients?

One web commenter suggested there should be a league table registering the positive feedback firms receive from clients. It’s not a bad idea: under the last government the Ministry of Justice commissioned its own study which inconveniently demonstrated just how satisfied the vast majority of clients are with solicitors. Ministers buried it. Such a finding was (and remains) ‘off message’.