Fake law firm alert sparks warning for Scots in search of legal advice

Scots are being urged to always use a qualified solicitor for their legal needs following a spate of cases involving fake law firms.

To avoid nasty surprises, the public should ensure they are using a solicitor, rather than just someone calling themselves a lawyer or legal advisor
To avoid nasty surprises, the public should ensure they are using a solicitor, rather than just someone calling themselves a lawyer or legal advisor

The call for caution from the Law Society of Scotland, which is the professional body for bona fide solicitors in Scotland, follows the issue of five fraud alerts in the past month.

The most recent involved a fake law firm calling itself Bansal & Co LLP said to be based at 16 Charlotte Square Edinburgh and 92a The Broadway, London. There is no firm of Scottish solicitors called ‘Bansal & Co LLP’.

The Law Society of Scotland said the alleged scam is being investigated and that any necessary action will be taken.

The solicitors’ organisation has also warned Scots to beware of the risks of engaging with unregulated online legal advisors, or individuals using the title ‘lawyer’ in Scotland.

Alison Atack, President of the Law Society of Scotland said consumers’ confusion over the difference between a solicitor and a lawyer could leave people vulnerable to unscrupulous fraudsters or poor advice.

“The terms solicitor and lawyer are often used interchangeably, with a public perception that all lawyers are fully qualified and regulated,” she said.

“However, it is not necessary for someone to have any kind of qualification, knowledge or experience in law or to be regulated to be able to call themselves a lawyer.

“While all solicitors can be referred to as lawyers, not everyone who calls themselves a lawyer is entitled to call themselves a solicitor.”

Ms Atack added: “A Scottish solicitor must complete many years of legal study, gain the necessary qualifications, undertake a two-year traineeship and professional training every year and comply with a code of ethics and the Law Society’s rules and guidance, giving the public reassurance and confidence in their professional standards and abilities.

She urged people seeking a trusted and professional legal advice to use the Law Society of Scotland’s www.findasolicitor.scot service.

According to the research carried out by ComRes for the Law Society of Scotland, 41 per cent of Scottish adults used a solicitor in the past five years, with 93 per cent agreeing they found their lawyer trustworthy.

Ms Atack added: “Scottish solicitors are here to help people often at the most difficult or most exciting time of their lives.

“They will guide you through whatever life-changing decision you have taken.

“To avoid nasty surprises, the public should ensure they are using a solicitor, rather than just someone calling themselves a ‘lawyer’ or ‘legal advisor’.”

“Solicitors are highly trained and regulated,” she stressed. “This means that in the unlikely event of something going wrong, the client is protected.

“This is not the case if those people offering advice are not solicitors.”

To find a highly qualified, regulated solicitor, go to the Law Society of Scotland's ‘Find a Solicitor’ search at www.findasolicitor.scot