Having initially been triaged by my general practitioner, with a stomach condition, I would see a gastroenterologist. In pregnancy, I would be referred to an obstetrician. If I had a knee injury, I would consult with an orthopaedic surgeon (preferably, one who sub-specialises in the treatment of knees). It is with these particular expert doctors that I would feel safe, secure in the knowledge that they are best equipped and experienced to evaluate my problem/condition and treat me appropriately.
Why then, similar to the community of medics, can we not have such a system of open specialisation of lawyers?
As a medical litigation solicitor, the truth of the matter is that I am very much a “one trick pony”. Frankly, I am perfectly happy as such. I advise clients who have sustained injuries (or worse) in medical settings. I have nine years of experience in the area. I have reviewed thousands of hospital files at this stage. I am familiar with the issues to be teased out. I have developed a rapport with the experts required to fully investigate these cases. I am experienced in all the various stages of medical litigation proceedings. I know my focus on this particular area of practice serves my clients well. Because I know what I am doing, as an individual, I thoroughly enjoy my work. It allows me to constantly expand my skill-set, safe in knowledge that I have the foundations correctly in place. Clients wouldn’t do well to have their will drafted or their house sold in my hands-indeed I wouldn’t take on such work, not having the expertise or the experience in such complex and important matters. But I can do the medico-legal work, and I can do it well. I have a track record to prove it. Why then, can I not say so? Similarly, why can’t my colleagues in family law or other specialist areas, hold themselves out as experts?
Subsection 71(2)(d) of the Solicitors Act 1954 provides that a solicitor shall not publish or cause to be published an advertisement that contains an express or implied assertion that the solicitor has specialist knowledge in any area of law or practice which is superior to that of other solicitors.
Of course, I am not saying that this “one trick pony” is superior to that of other solicitors. I have great respect for my colleagues, many of whom are excellent general practitioners, others, like I do, specialising in various fields like commercial transactions, probate, conveyancing, family law or crime. We all have our part to play. If I had a legal problem in any of these fields, I would seek out the appropriate specialist (which strictly speaking can only occur through word of mouth, given the prohibitive regulations).
In my view, the public interests would be best served by removal of this regulation. If we didn’t have specialties and sub-specialities in the world of medicine, our population would never have got so far in terms of medical treatment, disease prevention and life expectancy. When it comes to addressing complex problems, the best approach, in my view, is the specialist approach, both in medicine and in the law.
It’s time for an overhaul of the solicitors regulations, so as to allow potential clients “shop around” and fit their needs best, with the solicitor of their choosing. Casting us all as one and the same only serves to confuse and bewilder. Clarity and transparency is what is fundamentally required.
Contact us at Cantillons Solicitors at +353 (0)21 -4275673 or [email protected] if you would like more information.
* In contentious business, a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage of any award or settlement.