A deputy district judge lambasted law firms’ approach to low-value road traffic claims, describing them as “drivel” and saying “they are mostly prepared in a way which makes me ashamed of our profession”.
The outburst by the unnamed deputy district judge was quoted by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal this month in its decision to strike off a personal injury solicitor who dishonestly forged his client’s signature first on the list of documents for disclosure and then on a witness statement.
The statement was correcting an earlier statement, submitted many months before, and at the trial on 14 October 2016 at Edmonton County Court, the judge also heard the application to adduce the amended statement in evidence.
Counsel explained that the purpose of the second witness statement was to amplify the client’s account of the circumstances in which she was injured.
According to the tribunal ruling, the judge refused the application, saying: “Why was it not addressed as a result of the defence? Part of the problem with this – let us be clear – is I am a judge who is constantly unhappy because it is well over a year since I have seen one of these cases properly prepared.
“They are mostly prepared in a way which makes me ashamed of our profession. They are generally prepared by people who have never done anything to do with the law.
“You probably have to get four tiers up before you get to a solicitor. The stuff is generally drivel and the people who are in the witness box are constantly embarrassed by the paucity of the work that has been undertaken on their behalf.”
The judge said that “if the solicitors have used people who do not know what they are doing or the supervisors are incompetent”, then counsel would have to advise the client about a possible negligence claim.
When told that the work was done by a grade A fee-earner, the judge went on: “That is straight negligence, then. You are going to have to advise your client that they are negligent, potentially…
“I had assumed… that this was the usual debacle where it was someone who had heard of the law, never studied the law and, when we get four tiers up there was a solicitor supervising it.
“I had no idea that something like this was produced by a grade A fee-earner. I would never dare show my face again if this was the quality of work I produced. That is something else.”