The Law Society have recently released an article based on a Freedom of Information request by Ed Austin. http://www.lawgazette.co.uk/5039197.article?utm_source=dispatch&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=GAZ161213.
This indicates that every practising solicitor has contributed just under £100 to pay compensation to former Wolstenholmes clients who have suffered loss as a result of the firm’s dodgy dealings.
Just after the recession kicked in during 2008 I went for a meeting at Wolstenholmes with their practice manager. The firm had been in touch to say that they wanted to recruit about 5-10 solicitors for offices they were opening up across the country and the practice manager wanted to discuss fees and terms.
I have to say that in all my years of recruitment I have only ever dealt with two firms I thought were too good to be true, and the other one turned out to be the same as this one! The clues are probably pretty obvious to anyone who visits the firms, but harder to gauge from websites and online.
The Wolstenholmes offices are still there if you ever drive from Manchester Airport to John Lewis in Cheadle Hulme. The windows carry the lettering still and it is a fairly unimposing 1st storey set of offices in a residential suburb of Manchester with planes flying low overhead every 5-10 minutes.
I had an appointment towards the end of the day I recall, and arrived at the offices a few minutes early. There seemed to be staff running around everywhere and offices stuffed full of people and PCs crammed in wherever they could fit. Most of the people I could see looked a little hassled. The receptionist was amazingly rude and I was asked to sit and wait as the practice manager was busy. After about 20 minutes I sensed that I may well be wasting my time, but he came out and took me up to an office.
What followed was a very odd discussion indeed. The practice manager asked me to tell him about myself and our agency, which I did in about 30 seconds when I realised he was texting someone on his phone. After 30 seconds I stopped talking mid sentence and he immediately dialled a number and started talking to someone. He then waved his hand and left the room. I wasn’t quite sure what to do, but 2-3 minutes later he returned and asked me to tell him about my agency again. I think I said ‘we do legal recruitment’ and he asked how we could assist.
Before I could answer he took another call and turned round from me. Starting to feel very annoyed, but similarly in need of assignments, I patiently waited, and sure enough a few minutes later he turned round again and asked me to tell him about the agency. I decided to take a different tack and told him the price we wanted to assist the firm. He asked if this was negotiable and I explained that it wasn’t.
He then reeled off a load of information about how the firm were looking to become a major national and international player (usual spiel and very boring!) and that he wanted to work with only the best suppliers. His phone went off again, he answered it and I patiently waited. At the end he said that the firm wanted to pay about 5% of the fee I had quoted him (which wasn’t a lot in any event) and I suggested he contacted some of our competitors. I even gave him details.
After this I made my excuses and left, wondering why on earth I had bothered travelling all the way across there to meet with such a thoroughly unprofessional practice manager!
So this was my experience of the firm. We never worked with them, but I did have dealings with a number of their staff who had joined before the firm was intervened. Most seemed to be desperately attempting to escape as quickly as possible. I cannot imagine why.
Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment and has been dealing with solicitors firms since April 2000 across the UK.