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Last week, Gavin Williamson’s suggestion to scrap GCSEs took me back to school years studying Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice.” I’m sure just the title brings back memories of Shylock’s plaintive speech about the injustices suffered by his race. Having read the numerous emotional online posts from beaten-down lawyers. I thought there were lessons from that classic book to be drawn for today’s world. Obviously, the last time I drew a historical comparison, I evoked the level of fury that made Brexit arguments look like a children’s tea-party squabble over pass-the-parcel.

Despite Alexander Pope’s warning that “fools rush in where angels fear to tread” I figured, what the heck if nothing else it’ll increase the number of comments. Which, let’s face it, is what most people seem to want from PIE these days. The point is, lawyers are the same as everyone else.

They cannot perform miracles or see into the future. So, why do people feel free to abuse them for not possessing such superpowers?

Flame retardant clothing required

The social experiment of people working from home has freed clients from the usual distractions of the office. Giving them ample time to focus on inefficiencies in the home buying and selling business. I am currently playing the role of firefighter, showing our lawyers which flames need to be doused first. Sadly, I’m much more Fireman Sam than Kirt Russell in Backdraft, so I don’t attract the levels of lust this role normally attracts.

However, it does mean that I see first-hand the frustrations people are feeling with emotions running very high. Last week alone we had three major flare-ups. One person threatened to sue us because her lease does not allow her to put down carpet on the wooden floor. Another threatened to take us to small claims court unless we prove when we ordered searches on her purchase.

Finally, just for good measure, another accused us of running a scam operation and illegally holding her money. As attention-grabbing actions, that last one was right up there.

Given the number one reason why lawyers go into the industry is to try and help people, it’s no surprise we are seeing so many tears being shed right now.

Drinking champagne and eating bonbons

When we explain the pressure the industry is under, clients complain that “they are busy too”. Suggesting they are coping considerably better than us in some sort of bizarre “Who’s The Busiest” competition. For anyone thinking of participating in this event, I should warn you it’s not particularly exciting. I’m not even sure what the winner gets as a prize. I also need to point out that it’s not only clients who are taking part in this “Who’s The Busiest Person Tournament 2020.” We had a five property chain, due to exchange last Friday, but one lawyer left at 4.00 pm, so it didn’t happen.

This was obviously frustrating and only reinforced the afternoon golfer-lawyer stereotype. What made it really depressing was the abuse we received from another lawyer in the chain. Who berated us for “sitting around doing nothing”. This was not an isolated incident but it does show that in this particular war, green-on-green assaults are far more prevalent than the archaic, albeit evergreen, agent versus lawyer spats.

The vast majority of agents that we work with are feeling similar pressures.

Sand in the gears

As I’ve said before, the conveyancing process isn’t broken, but it does rely on lots of people being efficient. Which is what is causing delays right now.

When selling a property with a mortgage, the best way to get a redemption figure is to call the lender. However, something that used to take 10 minutes now involves sitting on hold for up to two hours, which ties up the telephone line, blocking all calls to that person.

Trying to contact other lawyers to discuss a problem, or even get an exchange is tough. What in the past was routine, with so many lawyers now on hold or working from home on their mobiles, is now a major challenge. Indeed, with some firms, you can’t even get past the voicemail on their main phone line.

Now, before any lawyer thinks about jumping on the anonymous abuse bandwagon beneath this article, we’re struggling with the same issues ourselves. People can’t get to speak to our lawyers and our responsiveness is nowhere near where we’d like to be. Even our brilliant technology and 100% paperless operation cannot solve this problem.

Mind you, at least we’ve got Fireman Sam doing his best to put some grease into those sandy gears.


The anxiety that society is suffering from is being brought into focus in the incredibly frustrating activity of house buying. Forget healing the wounds of Brexit and the vaccine versus anti-vaxxer argument.

Now is the time for everyone to come together. To bring respect and consideration to the players in our vital industry. This is why, when clients are demanding their pound of flesh, agents have a vital role in reminding them that lawyers are equally hurt by the accusations, threats, and bullying as any other mere mortal.


As published in