Qualification discrimination, the right to freedom of expression, and probate fees: this week’s collection of readers’ letters.

Counting the cost of being qualified

A few weeks ago, my old firm asked my wife and I to provide telephone cover and general clerical assistance, as one of the two partners had to have urgent surgery. During my stint there, I was not allowed to do any legal work of any nature as I did not have a current practising certificate. I would have committed a criminal offence had I done so.

I retired after 35 years of practice during which I had founded the firm in question. My old firm decided to renew my practising certificate in case an emergency arose and I could step in to help out if need be. This considerable sum of money was completely wasted as, fortunately, the need never arose and so quite rightly they stopped doing so a couple of years ago.

It was very frustrating being unable to do anything that resembled legal work and having to ask clients to wait for non-urgent appointments until after Christmas when I could have seen them immediately. My wife on the other hand, since she was not a solicitor and in fact has no legal qualifications, could do legal work. She has 25 years of conveyancing work behind her.

There is no procedure whereby a solicitor may take out a temporary certificate or one limited to say three months and pay a proportionate fee. It is an annual fee or nothing and you cannot apply for a rebate if you want to stop practising during part of the year. 

I feel discriminated against as a solicitor and penalised by my own profession, which treats unqualified persons more favourably than qualified. I can see no other reason than the Law Society maximising its financial take but in fact it would be better off if it allowed qualified personnel to take out a certificate for part of the year and the public would get a better service. A ‘win, win’ for all concerned.

Martin Smith
Barnet, Herts

Exception to the rule?  

I am writing with regard to the story ‘Solicitor fined £5,000 for describing complainant as a “nutter”’. 

Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights provides that: ‘Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas… The exercise of these freedoms… may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.’ 

Which of the exceptions is engaged by a solicitor describing someone other than a member of the judiciary as a nutter?

Michael Stannard
Verbier, Switzerland

Making the grade in the community

I was interested to read the letter from John Greenwood (So-called ‘elite’, Letters, 3 December). 

I am glad to confirm not all firms which made the Times top 200 list might be regarded as the metropolitan elite. Atherton Godfrey, essentially a firm still providing a range of high street services for local clients in the Doncaster area, did appear.

I hope that encourages all those other firms providing an all-round quality service for their local communities.

John McQuater
Partner, Atherton Godfrey LLP, Doncaster

Fix a date for probate fees

I doubt if there is a single practitioner who is not dismayed at the prospect of the new probate fees. But if we really are to have them, may I plead that the government introduces them to take effect on death after a certain date?

The stress caused by the last projected introduction, which was thankfully cancelled at the last minute, and which applied to applications made after a certain date, caused a lot of headaches. And not only for solicitors, but also HMRC and the Probate Registry. This will be such a simple solution to what is an unnecessary problem. I hope it can be adopted.

 William Meakin
Consultant solicitor, Grant Saw, London SE3