Don’t clients sometimes drive you mad? Happily this won’t happen any more because they are no longer ‘clients’ but ‘consumers’. I am grateful to the people who responded to my last blog by pointing out the Legal Ombudsman’s site refers to them as consumers. I also note chief ombudsman Adam Sampson’s article in the recent Gazette on this topic.
I would add my genuine regard for the ombudsman’s guidance on costs and commend it to you. I would also be concerned as he rightly is, if clients felt too intimidated to complain.
Mr Sampson makes the point that in the current business environment clients or customers are shopping around for services on a limited budget. True but I suspect it was ever thus.
I can remember 30 years ago defendants would fall down the steps of the large magistrates’ court building in the city where I worked having been told to get a lawyer. They would then go up and down the street looking for a solicitor in the same way as a person might window shop for shoes or anything else. The profession had it good for a brief period when conveyancing was profitable and legal aid was clearly better than it is now.
However, for most of the profession’s history lawyers have been two-a-penny. If clients shop around for legal advice they are still clients. What is important is the lawyer’s professional relationship with the client.
The word client comes from Latin cliens, a variant of cluens (‘heeding’), from cluere ‘hear or obey’. The term originally denoted a person under the protection and patronage of another, hence a person ‘protected’ by a legal adviser or as in a client state. For the life of me, though, I cannot work out who obeys whom. Answers please on a postcard.
David Pickup is a partner at Aylesbury-based Pickup & Scott