Occasional issues that arise when using the Legal Affiliate Service

Occasionally through no fault of either an ACID member or a Legal Affiliate team, the relationship between a client and their solicitor does not always run as smoothly as hoped. From a client’s perspective this could be anything from an optimistic expectation of time limits for return of telephone calls or emails to being advised that they do not have a case regarding a copying incident. From a lawyer’s perspective this could be a client failing to provide information when requested or not settling their account. However some misapprehensions are more frequently found and from a law firm’s perspective it is important to enlarge upon these so that there is clarity between the two parties regarding expectations.

Some ACID Member clients do not expect to pay for advice once they instruct an ACID Legal Affiliate. There is sometimes an unrealistic approach to legal advice and services. For example drafting letters or agreements involves a physical action and naturally that is when a law firm will charge. Again, like any other service provider, they provide a service in exchange for payment and it is no different from paying for a meal in a restaurant or a train ticket to travel. Don’t forget that some ACID members would pay more than their annual subscription for an hour’s IP specialist advice if they went directly to an IP firm.

Non payment of invoices – Occasionally, a client will instruct some work to be carried out and then not pay once that work has been completed, even where there are no issues with the level or standard of work produced. Lawyers are the same as any other business, it is inconvenient when those to whom they have provided a professional service in good faith refuse to pay. Most businesses will expect to be paid for providing their own goods or services, in the same way lawyers expect to be paid for their services.

Initial contact – For initial enquiries a Legal Affiliate team will aim to return a phone call or contact a member within 24 hours of the query being notified. Often people will become frustrated if they cannot speak to them immediately or if their call is not returned almost instantly. The reason that a time period of 24 hours is set is because it is not always possible to speak to a member instantly or within a short time after they call. For example lawyers may be in client meetings, in Court or working to a tight deadline advising other clients. Please be aware that Legal Affiliates work on behalf of many other individuals and corporations too and are not exclusive to ACID members.

Reviewing documents for clients.   At times an enquiry relates to the review of an important document, or some important advice at very short notice, for example an hour before going into a meeting to finalise an important document and requiring advice on the effect of that document. In order for any lawyer to fully consider the implications, and advise you, or any client, correctly they need to have sufficient time to properly consider the matter and any relevant documents; otherwise they cannot correctly discharge their professional obligations. The bottom line is that any lawyer has to be accountable for the legal advice they give. Business entrepreneurs make significant decisions based on professional consideration. Hurried advice is not good advice.

It is important to note that Legal Affiliates are completely independent businesses and not part of ACID.  When an ACID member contacts a Legal Affiliate or enters into a client relationship, ACID are not privy to any information on the issue – it remains completely confidential between the Legal Affiliate and the client.  ACID will therefore be unaware of any successful settlements, ongoing issues between a client and a Legal Affiliate or any complaints regarding services received.  If a client is unhappy with their relationship with a Legal Affiliate, the first step is to convey this to the law firm involved.  If you also wish to inform ACID of your complaint please be aware that we will have no knowledge of any of the details that have led you to be unhappy with your service.  ACID can convey to a law firm that a complaint has been made, but we cannot enter into any talks regarding the issue or act as a mediator between client and ALF.  If you did wish to take your complaint further you would be able to contact the Legal Ombudsman who would advise you.

Very rarely we are contacted by ACID Members who find that they are unable to take advice from a Legal Affiliate because of a ‘conflict of interests’.  If this does occur, please be aware that we will not know what the conflict is and would not expect to be given this sort of information by a Legal Affiliate.  In these very rare cases an ACID Member would need to seek advice from another Legal Affiliate.

The comments below are quite commonly received;

  • Can you have a look at this 20 page agreement now as I have a meeting in 2 hours?
  • Can’t you just add a couple of clauses to this agreement?
  • I don’t have to pay you because I am an ACID Member
  • Can’t you just write a letter for me – or tell me what to put in a letter?
  • I didn’t expect to have to pay for a letter
  • I e-mailed/telephoned you half an hour ago and I have not had a response

Please remember that the work a lawyer carries out for you needs to be legally correct – and that takes time!