Observations of an old Litigant in Person

diyLAW re-presents Observations of an old LiP by David Fabb in the light of the Tomlinson Report.


My days as a Litigant in Person date from 2006 when I faced the stark choice of continuing to diminish my remaining and fast dwindling assets by making large, regular donations to the comfortable lifestyle of a large Manchester firm of Solicitors, OR, “going it alone”.

Having been divested of a substantial group of Companies in 2003 by a rapacious large firm of accountants, well practised in the black art of working hand in glove with Banks and funders to feed off the carcases of asset-rich businesses, I had, by 2005 “got going” again, using as a springboard one of my companies I had bought back from the Administrators of my Group.  The “hi-tech” metal bashing business had, by December 2005, expanded to a group of 4 Companies.
It was viable and expanding.  My home had been re-mortgaged to provide working and loan capital.

I was widely known to have been raising hell about the highly questionable actions of the “professionals” concerned, aided and abetted by dodgy lawyers and valuers. Silly me!  I thought if I laid all my evidence before the ICAEW, the self-regulator of Accountants and Insolvency Practitioners, who, mostly, are FCAs then the ICAEW would deliver a “guilty” verdict and deal appropriately with the miscreants.  Dream on!

On about the 20th December 2005 the ICAEW delivered their verdict that there was no evidence that the Administrators had behaved other than lawfully, professionally, -”No prima facie evidence of wrongdoing”.  No change there!

Out of a clear blue sky, on 23 December 2005, I received, along with uncle Tom Cobbly and All, Notice that the Administrators were suing me, my (new) Company and my Daughter.  The main claim was for approx £1.5 Million being the value of the machinery and other assets I had acquired from the Administrators in July 2003.  Now, one would think it only necessary to tell them to go forth and multiply, lay out the documentation to prove the claim was false and had no merit, and “Bob’s your Uncle”.

Not a bit of it!.  Plainly, “they” knew there was no basis for the claim, BUT, it had the desired effect of causing the Company’s Bank, to force the new group into administration in March 2006.  The Bank clearly determined that.. “They would not, as one of “The Big Four” accountancy firms in the world, make such claim unless there was substance in it”, so true to form, they made for the hills.

By May 2006 ALL the new Group’s assets were auctioned, -JOB DONE!  I had laid out thousands to rebut the claims and mount a defence. I had lost my income and the means to keep the family home.  It did not take long for the penny to drop that, in such cases, Lawyers make their assessment as to how long you may be able to fund their work.  In this case, I smelled, also, a reluctance to “take on” one of the big boys.  After all, they are all, inter-dependent for fees and referrals.  Their flagship offices, in this case, are a few doors apart.

Would that diyLAW had been around then!  Where to turn?  Whose advice to trust?

There is no point in deluding yourself, in such circumstances, that you have more than a slim chance to heap ordure on your tormentors.  THEY have YOUR money.  You are, more or less, traumatised.  Even very good businessmen with much entrepreneurial talent and a good brain, are not in a good place to turn, overnight, into advocates.

THEY know all the tricks.  How to stay (just) within The Law.  They have fine-tuned the model.  Much of Insolvency Law was drafted by them. THEY can afford the hottest, dodgiest Lawyer and Barrister to deflect scrutiny and censure.  THEY and their legal mates can, to a surprising extent, I found, manipulate the Judicial Process and the Court Administrations, to load the dice.  To do other than capitulate is not for the faint-hearted.

Will things change?  Can vital, long overdue reform come in our lifetimes?  I am an optimist.  LiPs must take heart!

Since my life changed forever in 2005 many cries of “Injustice, Corruption!” have, and are, finding expression via social media and a burgeoning self-help movement.  The social and economic pressures afflicting much of Society encourage a rising tide of voices saying “Enough is Enough!”.

As a somewhat burned out senior citizen, I marvel at the professionalism and dedication of people like Brad Meyer and Jeff Lampert who have achieved the near-impossible by conceiving and nurturing diyLAW to channel their sense of civic responsibility and anger at the obstacles to justice which must be overcome by citizens unfortunate as to become LiPs.

To overcome the obstacles, one has first to understand what, exactly, the obstacles are.
I am sure that, had I known at the outset, what I came to know by the end of my journey, the outcome might well have been different.  LiPs cannot expect the playing field to be level.  First, the obvious point that the emotional burden of appearing in Court, perhaps for the first time, and usually under the weight of the sense of having been wronged, automatically places the LiP, whether as Applicant or Respondent, at a disadvantage to the Lawyer/Barrister opposing you.  Information by diyLAW can dramatically redress the balance by informing citizens as to how to play Lawyers and Court Administrators at their own game.

Then, there is the projection of superiority, frequently an artifice adopted by the less able advocates or Judges.  My trick to counter that is to imagine the individual at their morning toilet.  The robe and wig, under the large Insignia of office, are, then,  no more than props.  I remind myself they are mere mortals: often with more than their share of inadequacies, flaws and failings.  Many, stripped of the protection afforded by their bond of common origin, are men of straw.

We need serious reform.  The reforms overdue include a change from the no longer fit for purpose adversarial system.  Most commercial litigation would be over in a fraction of the time and justice served at a fraction of present cost if we had an inquisitorial system.
We need changes to the Rules of Discovery. More sanction for failure to observe adherence to administration compliance and some high profile instances of corrupt Solicitors and their clients doing time.

diyLAW is increasingly being seen as a conduit whereby the senior Law Officers can receive feedback channelled to address the critical problem arising from an ever-increasing tide of citizens for whom employing solicitors or being granted Legal Aid are not options.

David Fabb

This blogpost is for information purposes and should not be relied upon as legal advice because it does not consider or take into account your own personal circumstances. If in doubt, seek legal advice.