Now the Americans have been quick to say that the Special Relationship between the US and Britain will remain unchanged, it’s a good time to discuss special relationships in general.
Recently, the Legal Beagles forum has seen the birth of a number of Official Company reps. They can be found amongst the Site Leaders, here: Show groups. Most of them belong to Howlett Clarke, which is not surprising, in view of the fact that a couple of LB Site Team members joined that firm three years ago, to start a new consumer credit practice area within the firm.
Sites like MSE have had official reps for years, however, LB only had one, the Vodafone rep, for a number of years. The Legal Ombudsman will, no doubt, be very useful, should anyone have complaints about solicitors they have instructed, although we don’t see many such cases on LB. Most posters seem to be after free legal advice without the need to instruct a solicitor.
The role of the reps is unclear. With the Vodafone rep, he is there to try and help people having issues with the company. Vodafone is a company whose services are used by millions so there’s bound to be a few. The role of the law firm reps would have to be substantially different. Are they there to post advice on threads? That could be tricky, because anything posted by them could be construed as advice being given on behalf of the firm, if they are there in an official capacity.
Are they there to take referrals from the site team? If so, that could still be done privately. Is anyone allowed to freely refer to any of them, since they are official reps, it would appear to be the case, yet there isn’t a single referral that can be seen to any of them, on any thread. Are people referring to them by PM? It looks like that’s not allowed, there is a warning in red against it, although there’s no telling how long that has been there or what prompted it. One would think that personal recommendations by well established members should be allowed, but not spam. A difficult one to get right.
Most people are probably not aware of the presence of the reps, nor would they know why they are there if no-one tells them. One would think an announcement, guidance or mention should have been made somewhere, explaining why they are there and what they can do. One thing that was quite loudly announced was Celestine’s successes in setting aside statutory demands. These days, hardly anyone issues them, presumably due to the birth of the FCA, however, the announcement is still there, loud and proud. It’s a bit intriguing, because Celestine’s signature no longer says she works for Howlett Clarke, she had previously been on maternity leave, nor does she appear amongst the HC reps. She’s not featured under “our people” on the Howlett Clarke website either: Our People.
One also has to wonder where all this Howlett Clarke promotion fits in with LB Compare. If law firms are going to pay to be featured on the site, they’d hardly want to see HC having “right of first refusal” so to speak. They may well choose one of the many alternatives where no particular firm is given preference.