It is easy to mock the title of this book on taste grounds. Clumsy and contrived, the acronym serves no purpose other than to justify the presence of a vaguely offensive term on the cover. The tagline on the back (‘This book contains important facts which some solicitors, barristers and judges don’t even know themselves!’) will fool no one, least of all the market for which it is intended.
The tone of this disreputable attempt to enlighten the consumer as to the modus operandi of the average litigator is made plain when the author tells us that ‘without exception, the litigation solicitors who have acted for my family in six years may as well have charged for farting …’ In justification of this toilet humour, the author suggests a ‘quite unbelievable experience my father had with a firm of solicitors’ that left him ‘in financial ruin and ill health at a time in his life when he should have retired’.
This expressly declared grudge against the profession simply obscures the author’s aim. His intention is for the book to be a demonstration of how the novice can get the best from the experience of conducting litigation through a solicitor.
The result is a strained caricature of the legal profession that achieves nothing. Solicitors, Nelson informs us, have no other motivation except ‘spinning the client’s litigation out as long and as expensively’ as they can. Barristers engage in a ‘pantomime where they get the chance to have a sort of intellectual legal battle between each other with no control over the outcome’. Judges make unpredictable and random decisions: ‘Get the wrong judge on the wrong day and you will be disappointed.’
Nelson is oblivious of the rod he is creating for his own back. For example, he gives a credible account of how case management works, but all this is rendered otiose by his inability to suppress his utter disgust with the whole subject. His lengthy account of costs budgeting and risk analysis is rendered superfluous by the inevitable resort to the predictable mantra of ‘litigation is a lottery’ accompanied by lazy platitudes such as ‘achieving success is no more certain than going into a betting shop and placing a bet on a horse’.
Would-be litigants who invest in this book will be left scratching their heads and asking: ‘What is the point of explaining all these rules if you don’t believe the game is worth a candle?’
Robert Whitehouse is a solicitor at GH Canfields, Swiss Cottage, London