I really expected this, given the secrecy which is tantamount or worse than the Masons, but today I had the real runaround. I've had a load of problems with my solicitors in the UK (I live in France) who have the deeds to a property I am now selling. To backtrack, I should have had some inkling as to the problem last year when I emailed them three times and never had a reply relating to my will (which I finally remade elsewhere) but since we have agreed a sale I really need to get my skates on - or they do. Emails, phone calls - nothing made progress possible, so I decided to ring the Law Society. Their site is pretty opaque, but eventually I found the "Midlands Regional Office" number - based in Cardiff. No reply. so I phoned the Ombudsman, and was told to ring elsewhere, which I did, only to be told that this was the Ombudsman's problem - who'd already told me it wasn't their problem.
Turns out the company has gone bust at the end of last week, but no one had given me any inkling. The senior partner was "ill", the conveyancer was "off sick since August" and it was only this week that a nearby solicitor, I guess on the instructions of the Law Society, moved in to answer the phones and sort the mess out.
Are my deeds (which date back to 1783) safe? Are the deeds to another property safe? I guess so, and I've instructed another solicitor now, but my opinion of the Law Society has diminished substantially. I have spent a day and a half trying to talk to someone about the lack of service and to get things moving, but each time I have been told that matters can only be dealt with in writing, and that the state of the company could not be divulged. I could have lost a purchaser, but luckily haven't, and all of this leaves a really bad taste in the mouth.
No doubt one of our legal eagles will reply explaining why the system is so opaque and why nothing can be divulged, but for us Joe Public we have our rights and needs too.