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Outrage as law firm takes to social media to boast of ‘great win’ over parents

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How NOT to use Twitter

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A small Milton Keynes-based law firm may want to give its social media strategy a rethink after a tweet appearing to boast of a “great win” over parents sparked outrage on Twitter over the weekend.

Despite the case involving a child, public sector specialists Baker Small — who regularly advise schools and local authorities — trumpeted its victory online, appearing to relish the fact they had created a “storm” for parents.

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The tweets, pictured above and since deleted, received a number of angry responses because of the sensitive nature of the work involved.

Outraged by the firm’s tweets, carer Diane Kay wasted no time in writing a formal letter of complaint to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

Claiming that the firm had failed to comply with “basic professional and ethical standards”, Kay also voiced concerns that the family involved could be identified from the various tweets.

Letter

Still standing by its original post, the firm began blocking those who objected and then went on to respond in a less than sensible fashion. Unfortunately for Baker Small, blogger Chaos in Kent screenshot them all before they were eventually deleted.

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The following day the firm issued a grovelling apology.

A further statement (pictured below) was issued by the firm’s managing director Mark Small yesterday. Describing the tweets as simply “not appropriate”, he reassured those upset by this weekend’s Twitter storm that all complaints would be dealt with by the appropriate authorities.

Letter

But unfortunately many who were offended by the original tweets are still blocked, and therefore cannot see the apology.

Baker Small didn’t respond to Legal Cheek’s request for comment.

36 Comments

Just Anonymous

The serious point at the heart of this rather silly incident is that (in my opinion) too many in my profession see litigation as a game.

It is not.

Litigation, for the people involved, is often a personal hell. Now, some lawyers will argue that their duty to do the best for their client requires them to be combative, aggressive and to treat litigation as a mini-war: since victory for the client is the ultimate goal.

Personally, I detest this philosophy. In my view, aggressive litigation and aggressive advocacy should be a last resort: reserved for those opponents who are acting obstructively and dishonestly. Rather, in many cases, it is in the client’s best interests to be constructive, co-operative and reasonable, pro-actively working to narrow the issues in dispute and keeping legal costs to a minimum. Our legal system is clearly moving in this direction, and rightly so.

(67)(3)

Jan Hagen

It is obviously tragic that sad little ambulance chasers like Baker Small take so much pleasure from the pain experienced by others. However, they are just using their possibly limited legal skills to chase the low hanging fruit that is presented through rushed and confusing legislation. It doesn’t take an accomplished lawyer to make a lot of money in an area where local authorities fight as hard as they can to save money. The needs of the children are secondary by some distance behind the need to cut costs. Mark Small and his small band of mercenaries simply milk a system that is designed to be milked by lawyers. Sad though that they seem to take themselves seriously as a law firm. I have direct experience going through this process and although people like Baker Small deserve a beating for being totally unethical exploitative and ghastly ambulance chasers, I suspect that this publicity will earn them even more money as they display exactly the behaviour local authorities look for. The LA are just a bit cleverer (and that doesn’t happen often) by putting a facade of care in front of their real motivations. Maybe we should celebrate Baker Small as whistle blowers against a failing system.

(9)(0)

Anonymous

It is the sort of bollards that people like Alan Blacker post.

The law is supposed to be dignified and respectful. Keep it that way.

(15)(1)

Anonymous

Lawyers very rarely interact with non-lawyers, and so often lack any social awareness. They should give control of the firm’s twitter accounts to non-lawyer staff imo.

(11)(6)

Anonymous

This. My advice to would be lawyers is to do everything you can to interact with non lawyers, otherwise you can lose all sense of reality.

(5)(0)

Anonymous

Sounds like someone has got behind the keyboard after a few drinks…. firm should receive some sort of warning but I would hazard a guess at this being serious misconduct by one individual on a mad one, who needs to be dealt with appropriately.

(19)(0)

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(4)(1)

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(2)(0)

Fiona Muxlow

As a solicitor (non practising) and parent of a disabled child who’s faced SEN tribunals, I’m appalled at Baker Small’s tweets. The Children and Families Act was supposed to put children at the centre of the SEN process and remove the lose/win mentality. Baker Small’s tweets show just how aggressive the system still is. Parents juggling caring for disabled children often don’t have the financial means or the strength to continue trying to get the right support for their child when faced with such antagonistic LA legal representatives. The SEN world is a fairly small one and the tweets have enabled the LA which instructed Baker Small to be identified and the parents and disabled child. Appalling breach of confidentiality and totally unprofessional behaviour. The BS apology is meaningless . What “full and appropriate action” will be taken when the person writing the apology is the very one who posted the offensive tweets in the first place?!

(42)(0)

Katy Carr

This wasn’t just a rather “silly incident”. The tweets amounted essentially to gloating about a “victory”! over the parents of a disabled child. In one post they sneered at “the emotive world of SEN (one sided) that is”.

I also strongly suspect that their local authority clients will not be too happy at having to field the justifiable anger of the parents concerned, or the fact that there is a serious danger of breach of confidentiality: in the SEN world it is well known which LAs Baker Small acts for, and there won’t have been many tribunal hearings involving ABA this week. The LA will continue to have responsibility for this family for a long time and BS has just made that much more difficult. If or when word gets out into the wider local community, all of that will be exacerbated.

(24)(0)

Just Anonymous

Pointlessly objecting to subjective terminology when it is obvious we completely agree about the substantive issues, is a perfect example of the sort of needlessly aggressive advocacy I find so tedious and unnecessary in practice.

(9)(6)

Anonymous

A professional individual reflects the ethos of those surrounding them. In a culture where caring parents of vulnerable children are seen as fair game it is reasonable that the community of carers as a whole have united in their condemnation of this ‘leak’ of the general experience amongst them from this organisation. I hope that Local Authorities and government officials who employ such strategists take heed and instead follow the ethos of the new legislation which although underfunded, attempts to have the ‘voice of the family’ recognised.

(6)(0)

Anon

Has this been passed on to National news? Frankly it should be, the media pressure might encourage the LA’s to drop them in favour of a more ethical/professional firm, particularly as they have flounted confidentiality.

(12)(0)

ImNotPandroidHonest

But that is the whole point anon, LAs don’t want a “fair” fight, they are desperate to conserve their meagre resources /budget – so bend over backwards to prove that funded support is not required. This is possibly v. good advertising for BSmall as able to give LA’s what they want/need.

(2)(3)

Anonymous

Yes Local Authorities do work hard to preserve their resources and budget because if they didn’t, many children or adults with disabilities would lose out even more. But speaking as someone with a national Local Authority client base, the attitude taken by BSmall is not reflective of most Local Authorities. Unfortunately, as unsympathetic as it may sound, there are many Claimant’s out there that want the world on a plate and, whether wilfully or not, fail to understand the term “compromise”. Or perhaps it’s the Claimabt’s solicitors that need to realistically manage their client’s expectations…

(2)(9)

Diane Kay

I think attitudes like yours have a lot to do with this.

FIrst, your view that many claimants (and I presume you mean claimants in SEND tribunals, therefore parents of disabled children) want the world on a plate is one shared by many who see our children as ‘others’, who do not deserve and are not entitled to a decent education. The world on a plate could be something as basic as going on school trips with the rest of the class. Hardly an indulgence is it.

Second, why should anyone have to compromise in order to recieve an education? I’m sure if you have children with no SEND, you don’t have to compromise so why the hell should parents of children with SEND?

A positive to come from this balls up is that LAs will come under scrutiny, and hopefully have to justify why they choose to spend ££££s on shark solicitors when they could spend it on providing the basics a disabled child needs to even be at the same starting block as their non disabled peers.

(27)(1)

Anonymous

I hope the SRA take this extremely seriously, a law firm who does not abide by the simple principles including RESPECTING DIVERSITY should not be allowed to practice with tax payer money. This should be escalated to your local Councillirs and MPs and ultimately the education secretary……

(7)(0)

Gerald Ratner

I don’t know how many authorities there’s are, but TWENTY at least employed Small!. That’s enough .😸

(2)(0)

Viscount Dilhorne

Twitter, alcohol and the legal profession do not mix well…

(9)(0)

Lord Lyle

Why would a firm have social media account, twitter, FB etc?

(2)(1)

Anonymous

Because it’s 2016.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

‘But over the weekend, the official Twitter account of the firm, which is paid more than £300,000 by Gloucestershire County Council to advise and represent the council in tribunals against parents,..’

The council is paying these heartless tools to “fight” against parents of special need kids that kind of money, to conserve their funds? What are they conserving, except Baker Small’s bottom line?

Read more: http://www.bristolpost.co.uk/Law-firm-s-grovelling-apology-epic-Twitter-storm/story-29395459-detail/story.html#ixzz4BVWm5Rga
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(9)(0)

Sarah

It is absolutely appalling that Local Authorities are able to spend our own hard earnt tax money against us hiring expensive law firms like Baker Small! They evidently do not realise there is a vulnerable child at the centre of this. It is simply disgusting to laugh at a parent who has lost their battle to receive treatment which they know works for their child and the win is simply for financial gain of the Council. Why should councils be permitted to use these vicious expensive solicitors when parents can’t afford them? If my local authority were using Baker Small I would completely lose my trust in them .

(11)(0)

Sarah

If my local authority used Baker Small Solicitors against me I would completely lose faith in the fact that they have ever had my child’s best interest at heart (as they always claim).

(9)(0)

Michael

Please note reality you must have your child interest at heart first. The local authorities are there to cooperate with out cooperating. You must be firm and resolute. You must do practical research in area’s governing Sen policy from practioner perspective. Silence results to injustice seek local and community publicity to highlight your concern.
Do not back down.
Boots on the ground
Michael

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Local authorities have their budgets at heart and certainly not the best interests of disabled children. They are no doubt committed to use their budget as wisely as possible, but this could also be achieved by wasting far less money on continuously introducing new under qualified people into their assessment procedures, and then paying loathsome little people like Baker Small to pretend (sorry prove) in a tribunal that the LA has thrown many people at the problem, so they must have tried their hardest. The entire process is farcical and inevitably leads to parents running out of budget to simply get their child what he or she deserves, ie to fulfill his or her full potential. The system is designed to keep as many civil servants employed as possible, which requires them to save money where possible. Parents of disabled children are easy game for them because we tend to naively believe that our children have the same rights as others and we will spend all our money until we find out that the current legal system doesn’t agree with us.

(4)(0)

Michael

Please note that the local authorities don’t
Play by the rules, the consequences is so punitive that they can get away with unsavory tactics. Parents must be so practive continously. The core essence is making sure the foundation of your statements is so robust from earlier on set. Do not agree with anything without your own independent advisers. It’s prudent to be loud. Complain and be affirmative. The current legislation is merely a window dressing. Please always request review and be proactive by making all stake holder’s accountable do not giving to you meet sembling of your objective. All children deserve positive future.
This message is coming from boot on the ground.
Michael is

(0)(1)

Anonymous

And reference to ‘high functioning autism’ and/or ADHD in 1, 2, 3…

(0)(2)

Dennis Williams

There are lots of autistic lawyers in the UK. I hope they’re not fighting to prevent other disabled children from getting the help that they need at school.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

I hope autistic lawyers are doing what any lawyer should do: pursue their client’s best interests within the law and the rules of the profession.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

If the SRA do look at them, it would be interesting to see how much of what Baker Small did on individual cases was actually on the instructions of the relevant Council. This would answer the question of whether they were ruining people’s lives off their own back, or fulfilling a desire of the Council to get as many parents with decent cases to “go away” as possible with a view to saving money.

(1)(0)

Red mist my eye

Hertfordshire County Council new exactly how Baker Small operated, and in the case of my child actively carried out there dispicable tactics (delays to our experts gaining admittance to the school premises ,restricting there time once there, to observe my child, sending us on fools errands ,to check completely unsuitable schools,but we felt we had to to stop small saying we hadn’t done our homework, , also being late with documents ,we where entitled to, the thing that worries me,is that all these council employees, are still there, they have all attended courses run by Mark Small, on how to disadvantage children and parents ,there ticking time bombs, that are indoctrinated with Mark Smalls ethos ?, how could any parent sit in a meeting with these council employees !

(8)(0)

The Phoenix rises from the ashes ?.

for those of you who are wondering how Mark Small is going to earn a crust, fear not comrades, he has already set up a new company, as of the 16th of June. (No time wasted there!) It is called, Essential special educational needs Ltd. Working from the same office in Milton Keynes as before, as the parent of a disabled child that fought Mr Small , and his trusty right hand man Sean Bowers,( jumped ship inJune 2015 and now works out of Salisbury, as SEN Action !) we must all wish him and his new company get what they truly deserve…

(8)(0)

Guan yu

Phoenix,
Yes I also fought Mr Small and his lieutenant, Sean Bowers who used every tactic in the book to delay the Tribunal and to deny my disabled child a decent education. These people have no empathy for disabled children and are totally dishonest. Bowers also lied about me, presented late evidence at the tribunal and made out my bright child to be stupid and not worthy of having any money spent on his education. Sadly, this was with the tacit approval of the local authority. Bowers is now masquerading as a SEN child’s hero out of his company, SEN Action. I wish to see these two people and their employees out of a job but the fault lies with the local authorities. Alas, as long as there are local authorities who take the attitude that money spent on disabled children is a waste, there will be others who will take BS’s place. And David Simmonds, the councillor for education at my LA (Hillingdon) had the audacity to say “Hillingdon LA will always pursue the interests of children” in response to questions from the local papers.

(5)(0)

Rotten in the state of Sen Mark

Dear Guan you, you have my heart felt sympathy, having been there got the t shirt etc, not only where Hertfordshie up to there necks in the brown stuff,can any one imagine as they spun there evil web of deceit how we parents felt, of course you can’t, we are fighting for our children, rubbish comments from tribunal judges like (you want the gold standard !) where not helpful and only indicated whose side they where on?.Allso in. Our last but one tribunal( we had five) there was clear direction from the judge, to a teacher representing the school they wanted my child to remain at, regarding whether they could provide for his needs, one judge in there summing up stated because our experts where not given adequate time in the school , (orchestrated by Mark Small and Herfodshirs council and implemented by staff at the school) then no credence should be given to there evidence, at a cost of several thousand pounds to our family, this truly is LaLa Land, the whole system stinks!.

(5)(0)

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