Legal firm the Right Legal Group ties itself in knots over £1,200 will: TONY HETHERINGTON investigates
Tony Hetherington is Financial Mail on Sunday’s ace investigator, fighting readers corners, revealing the truth that lies behind closed doors and winning victories for those who have been left out-of-pocket. Find out how to contact him below.
Ms W.D. writes: I have a problem with a will I tried to make through Simpsons Solicitors of Derby. One of its staff took instructions from me last April, and preparing the will cost £1,200 plus £83 expenses.
A week later, I called and asked whether the will was ready to be signed and witnessed, but was told the firm was very busy.
However, my bank statement showed the £1,283 had been taken. I am nearly 90 and still have not had my will for signature.
‘Rules’: Simpsons Solicitors of Derby is part of the Right Legal Group
Tony Hetherington replies: Simpsons is part of a network of law firms called the Right Legal Group, so I asked its compliance officer Danielle Wilkes to look into what you say happened, and to let us have her company’s comments, particularly as a bill for more than £1,200 for drafting a will seems unusually high. You helpfully signed a letter, authorising Ms Wilkes’ company to discuss your complaint with me.
Despite this, Ms Wilkes replied: ‘We are unable to comment due to our duty of confidentiality to our client, and for reasons that I cannot disclose, we are unable to accept the form of authority. As a regulated law firm that specialises in wills and probate, we often deal with vulnerable clients, and I strongly suggest that it would not be in Ms D’s best interest to continue with publication.’
She added that any complaint should be handled by an Ombudsman, and that if I went ahead and published your letter, then ‘we reserve the right to take appropriate action’.
The implication was that you were not competent to give Right Legal permission to talk to me. But in that case, surely this would mean you were not competent to make a will or to make a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman?
Ms Wilkes simply repeated that there was a complaints procedure which you should follow.
Fine, I said. I will act on your behalf, filing a complaint under Right Legal’s internal procedure and then, if necessary, I would represent you in dealing with the Legal Ombudsman.
I asked Ms Wilkes to let me have a copy of her firm’s complaints procedure. She refused, telling me: ‘We are under no duty to share our internal complaints procedure with you, nor do we believe it is in our client’s best interest to do so.’ She later added that Right Legal was unable to reveal its complaints policy because ‘you are not our client.’
What Ms Wilkes failed to mention though, was that her firm had just contacted you and returned your money. When you told me this, you emphasised: ‘To this day, I have never seen my will, printed or witnessed.’
And I have to say that in my own contact with you, I have seen nothing to suggest that you are ‘vulnerable’ or not competent.
Clearly, Right Legal may disagree. Ms Wilkes commented: ‘We have fully investigated the issues raised by Ms D and although we take all feedback on board, we wholly refute the accuracy of the statement and can confirm that the facts of the case are not as described in her letter.’
Her firm was bound by strict rules of confidentiality, she added, and she claimed that Right Legal had in fact acted on your instructions.
Ms Wilkes wanted me to name you in print, despite suggesting you are ‘vulnerable’. But she did not explain why you had been given a full refund only after I intervened, and she went back on her hint about your mental state, telling me she had never suggested you were – or were not – vulnerable, in which case I have to wonder why she dropped such a huge hint in the first place.
Two weeks ago, Ms Wilkes asked to be put in touch with The Mail on Sunday’s legal team, who would apparently understand that she was legally unable to say anything about your allegations, even with your consent, because she was bound by a duty of confidentiality and legal privilege.
I gave her the contact details but since then we have heard nothing. My Learned Friend comments: ‘Sounds like a complete try on to me.’ Now there’s legal advice I can understand.
If you believe you are the victim of financial wrongdoing, write to Tony Hetherington at Financial Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TS or email [email protected]. Because of the high volume of enquiries, personal replies cannot be given. Please send only copies of original documents, which we regret cannot be returned.