Benefits of transparency and e-filing failings: your letters to the editor

Clear benefits of transparency

The Legal Services Consumer Panel’s consumer impact report (‘Watchdog still concerned at information on quality’) highlighted the lack of progress that has been made in the sector towards price transparency.

 

Yet, given the unprecedented operating environment we all find ourselves in, increased transparency around price and service could actually help drive new business.

 

The Legal Services Board is currently looking at review and feedback sites. Despite concerns from lawyers that these sites only attract negative comments from unhappy clients, this is often not the case. A 2017 report by Podium found that online reviews affect purchasing decisions for more than 93% of consumers, and 68% are willing to pay up to 15% more for the same product or service if they are assured they will have a better experience.

 

In a period of great uncertainty, law firms may want to consider how increased transparency could aid their business development efforts.

 

Qamar Anwar

Managing director, First4Lawyers, Huddersfield

 

Criminally undervalued

Perhaps now, during these unusual times, it is appropriate to consider those working in the criminal defence field. They have long been undervalued and disregarded. Regularly working in excess of 60 hours a week for a very modest income (usually below £40,000 a year), those hours will not only increase but will, as ever, be spent in very dangerous circumstances.

 

While the Crown Prosecution Service now pays salaries in excess of £50,000 a year for a 35-hour week (with holidays, sick leave and all of the other benefits that any modern employee would expect), the criminal defence fraternity can only look on enviously. Consider whether you would be prepared to be locked in a police interview room with a drug addict suffering from serious mental health problems for such modest remuneration, 20 days leave, no medical cover and statutory minimum pension contributions.

 

Do you have to view the most appalling pornographic material in your work? Do you have to look at and hear reports of the most appalling violence simply to do your job? Is every attendance with a client a possibility for you to be assaulted or indeed contract a dangerous virus? Are you treated like an untrustworthy and unwelcome visitor when you go to police stations, courthouses and other facilities? Are you viewed as an agent of evil rather than balancing foil to the excesses of state? This is the life of a criminal defence practitioner.

 

I have worked in both the civil and criminal fields and I never tire of telling criminal defence colleagues that they are extraordinary lawyers: committed to doing what is right, carrying vast libraries of knowledge in their heads and wedded to the belief of justice for all. Knowing them humbles me. So it should everyone. Criminal defence is a vocation, but through lack of funding adherents are leaving faster than they can be replaced.

 

Fin O’Fathaigh, Milton Keynes

 

E-filing failing

Is it only me that finds the court e-filing website difficult to use?

 

I filed some papers online (as required by the new rules) and they uploaded. OK, I thought, that was easy. So I closed the page and moved on to something else. But it turns out that the papers were not filed at all because there is a number of steps to be completed after uploading. My papers just sat there as a draft filing and I received no email telling me there was more to be done.

 

Since then I have used the website a number of times and I find it clunky and definitely not intuitive. While the intention is good, the execution is (in my view) very poor. You can get there with a bit of effort but it is easy to make mistakes and it really does not help the user.

 

I am reasonably confident with digital systems but someone with less confidence could really struggle.  

 

Of course, if I am the only person who has sat and screamed at their PC while trying to use the site then maybe I really am stupid after all.

 

J. Howard Shelley

K.J. Conroy & Co, Birmingham

 

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