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By: MarkJ - 6 October, 2010 (12:16 PM)
legal ombudsman ukThe new UK Legal Ombudsman opened for business today, which aims to help people resolve complaints about lawyers. Much as you might expect one of the first complaints to arrive this morning was against the firm Gallant Macmillan Solicitors, which has been in the news several times recently after trying to obtain details of suspected "illegal" p2p copyright file sharers from broadband ISPs BT Retail and its sibling PlusNet UK (here and here).

Related law firms use these details to send demands for money - settlement payments (i.e. "speculative invoicing") - to those they suspect of wrongdoing, which is despite the evidence being notoriously unreliable. Those who refuse to pay up are often threatened with legal action, which almost never materialises.

The complaint against Gallant Macmillan Solicitors was lodged by Marcus Williamson, an IT consultant with 25 years of history in the computer industry.

Marcus Williamson told ISPreview.co.uk:

"I see this kind of activity as the greatest legal threat to the integrity of the Internet since it was created. I have repeatedly asked Simon Gallant of Gallant Macmillan Solicitors for details
of the legal basis under which he is carrying out this activity and he has refused to provide the information requested. I have therefore been compelled to lodge a complaint with the Legal Ombudsman."

The Legal Ombudsman claims to have formal powers to resolve complaints about lawyers. It is a free service and promises to look at legal complaints in a fair and independent way, without taking sides.

Chief Ombudsman, Adam Sampson, said:

"We know that most of the time, lawyers provide a good service. But sometimes things can go wrong. When they do, people must have access to someone they can have confidence in to put things right.

That is our job – to resolve complaints quickly and fairly. We have worked hard to make sure we bring a fresh approach to legal complaints with a focus on justice.

We also want to work closely with lawyers and their regulators to raise standards. We want to help prevent complaints and make the legal and justice systems work better."

We suspect that the complaint about Gallant Macmillan Solicitors won't be the last and wouldn't be in the least bit surprised to see a few about ACS:Law winging their way over. First come, first served, as the saying goes.
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