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Letter: the root of our stress
16 May 19
The underlying reasons for stress in the profession, and the need to tackle them
The article “Lifting the lid on the law” (Journal, January 2019, 12) was a summary of certain issues which affect the profession, but did not go far enough. The legal profession, and in particular the partners of individual firms, try to achieve the highest level of professional standards. The expectations of the public are often unrealistic; many transactions involve a re-education of one's client so that the client's expectations are in line with reality. Against the background to working at such a standard the legal profession and particularly the partners in firms are at constant risk and threat of complaint (however vexatious and frivolous) to the SLCC. Not only may complaints be made by one's own client but complaints may be made by the other side or by any third party.
The result of the above is huge pressure on partners and the legal profession in general. Your article, although very interesting, does not address the underlying reasons why the profession is under such stress. Such pressure trickles down through any firm from the partners to the associates to the assistants, to the trainees, to the paralegals, to the secretaries and support staff in general. If any of those persons who are not partners in the firm make an error, the partner is responsible. That inevitably means that there is pressure on each and every member of every legal firm.
I would therefore suggest that the underlying reasons for stress in the legal profession are as outlined above.
What can be done about it? Partners and solicitors need to be supported by the Law Society of Scotland when things potentially go wrong or do go wrong. The Society's Professional Practice department does an excellent job in giving support, but more is needed. When a complaint is made, who gives support to the legal profession? No one except for the Legal Defence Union (in serious cases).
Any complaint to the SLCC involves huge stress for the individual solicitor concerned. I would question whether any other profession is subject to the constant threat of complaint to which the legal profession is subject.
While your article is therefore of considerable interest, it fails in my view to seek to address the underlying issues which are the cause of the stress to which the legal profession is subject.
James D Hotchkis, Nairn