Law firm sent letters with Latin phrases including ‘ab initio’ and ‘prima facie’ to client with learning difficulty

By on

Example of ‘poor service’ appears in Legal Ombudsman guidance

A law firm sent a client with a learning difficulty letters “full of technical and Latin phrases”, it has emerged. The example of “poor service” appears in fresh guidance on the Legal Ombudsman’s (LeO) approach to determining consumer complaints.

According to the LeO, the unnamed firm sent a number of pieces of correspondence containing phrases such as ab initio and prima facie, despite being repeatedly warned by the client that letters should be in plain English and any difficult concepts would need to be explained. The LeO, an independent and impartial scheme set up to help resolve complaints about lawyers, determined this was “poor service.”

The 2019 Legal Cheek Firms Most List

In a more positive example of client care, the LeO also referred to a case where a firm was defending an “illiterate customer” in criminal proceedings. The unnamed firm discussed how they could best communicate with him, including whether he needed support from a third party. This, according to the LeO, “demonstrated that the firm had adapted their approach to take account of the customer’s needs”.

According to the guidance, the LeO will consider both the vulnerabilities and knowledge/experience of the complainant, before “deciding whether the service provided was reasonable”.

The LeO’s guidance comes just weeks after Lady Justice Rafferty, chair of the Judicial College, urged lawyers to ditch outdated jargon. Taking aim at lawyers’ written submissions to judges, Court of Appeal judge Rafferty said many are “are too long, rambling, waffling, warbling.”

Sign up to the Legal Cheek Newsletter



Phrases like ‘ab initio’ should only really be used in the Defence against the Dark Arts.


You mean when writing back to the CPS?


I once wrote the phrase “prima facie case” in a letter to CPS and got a snotty reply saying “I don’t speak Latin, please re submit your request in English”.

I went to a state school.

Dumbing down or what?


Prime facie, res ipsa loquitur.

Caveat emptor!


Shut up.


Shuttius uppius

Harry Potter And The Last Laugh

You are correct, I was AB from the beginning, but I will be LH ’til the bitter end, when robdave2k has agreed to buy my title for £110,000.


The Harley title is up for sale for just £86,000…

There’s a 10% discount for the first five purchasers!

Alan Slackbowels

And a free supply of incontinence pads.


How else can lawyers charge such high fees if they don’t appear to be of a superior intellect using unnecessary Latin words??


Wait a minute what about the GDLers who’ve done law in 9 months without coursework and have a degree in Latin?

What about the young who’ve done a 3 year law degree with coursework? Give them a chance, Clifford Chance.


Why are you so obsessed with course work? It’s easy to cheat, all degrees involve them, as did my law conversion course. Not that coursework matters….


Dafuq you on? Someone was doing the GDL part time with no coursework over two years on 4500 pounds.

Law degree students paying 9000 a year and doing more assessments and had to submit through Turnitin, unlike you, cramming and getting mental health problems. Crying wolf


There really aren’t that many classics -> GDL students…


I am pleased to note that LeO and I are ad idem.


This is a fascinating article.



How else can we demonstrate higher value than using unnecessary Latin???


Duchamp ties.


And pinstripe suits with waistcoats


Arse Holeio


That’s not Latin!

Super Mario

One of my clients received a three page letter before action for a claim of £25!! from the solicitors of a debt collection agency in Luton, which opened with a Cicero quote in latin, followed by extensive use of terms like “mutatis mutandis”, “inter alia”, “ad valorem” and “consensus ad idem”.

It would seem their business model is to make their claims as incomprehensible and intimidating as possible, perhaps to scare the recipient into paying up.


Rattus rattus!


I once helped an elderly friend who had received a parking ticket for parking in a restricted area he was entitled to park in due to his blue badge. The letter came from a company called Car Parking Services, who are (or were) the people who ticketed him. Car Parking Services refer to themselves as ‘CPS’, and it is these initials that appear on their letterhead. Their logo is the scales of justice. Clearly, my friend thought he was being prosecuted by the Crown, and clearly, that’s what Car Parking Services wanted him to think.


Elderly f*cks got tricked into voting Brexit, they can get tricked into paying a hustler too


Well, there’s no duty to make things easy on your opponent…


Just reply to any such letters with the Ground Nuts Order auto-translated into Latin:

In nuces (Cereris) (praeter terram nuces) Ordinis dictum ligula habebit Talia nuces praeter terram nuces quod foret pro emendacione Ordinis vocandum ut nuces (Cereris) (praeter terram nuces) qua ratione nuces (Cereris)

Just leave to recipient to back-translate it.


Incredible. Great work.

Bogeyman Bungo

Nolite Bastardes Carborundorum

Join the conversation

Related Stories