A law firm which offended parents of children with special educational needs and disability through comments on Twitter over the weekend is to face an investigation from the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
Milton Keynes-based Baker Small – which describes itself as a niche firm providing advice to public bodies including schools and local authorities – has apologised and made a contribution to charity over its conduct.
The firm sent out a tweet on Saturday that said: “Crikey, had a great ‘win’ last week which sent some parents into a storm! It is always a great win when the other side thinks they won!”
It then trumpeted a “great ABA win this week” – referring to applied behavioural analysis, a programme to help autistic children – adding: “Interesting to see how parents continue to persist with it. Funny thing is parents think they won ;)”
Several Twitter users sent critical messages in response, and when challenged by one user, the next Baker Small tweet said: “Whenever someone thinks they have won and they have conceded 90% of their case, it does make me smile.”
Twitter user Diane Kay, who describes herself as a parent/carer, asked for the identity of the sender so she could make a complaint, to which she received this reply: “Dear oh dear complaints policy on our website. Can dish it out but not take a different opinion ;)”
Another user pointed out that while “you can go home and forget, parents of children with SEN live with it 24/7. We seek collaboration not confrontation”. Baker Small replied: “When parental solicitors champion their ‘wins’, they are lauded on Twitter. Double standards I’m afraid.”
The firm then started blocking users, but posted further tweets – one, with a picture of a ‘laughing’ cat, said: “Some great tweets received today from people who just see a one-sided argument… just shared them with my cat…” Another, with a picture of a house and swimming pool, said: “Shame about the football but nice to be relaxing on Twitter at the end of a busy week.”
Ms Kay drafted a letter of complaint to the SRA, a picture of which she posted on Twitter and asked for other users to retweet, which 91 did.
It said: “While I understand that [Baker Small] are employed to win, they should still uphold the highest standards. I believe that their comments bring the profession into disrepute by such an attitude and the use of such a public platform makes me concerned that it was their intention to be inflammatory.”
By yesterday morning, Baker Small’s tone had changed, with the tweets removed and managing director Mark Small publishing a letter on Twitter acknowledging the “upset and offence” caused and apologising unreservedly.
He wrote: “We take our position as legal advisers to public bodies and also to parents very seriously and we recognise the complex nature of the SEN and Disability legal system. We have tweeted our experience many times and engaged in tweets with our followers about the daily challenges of that system. It is with regret that yesterday tweets were sent from us which were not acceptable regardless of the context…
“We are aware of complaints which have been made and will address those with the appropriate authorities as required. Please accept our sincere apologies.”
The firm tweeted this morning that “although we are not able to take back what was tweeted, we intend to make a donation to a great charity which does wonderful work” – the Children’s Hospice South West.
An SRA spokesman said: “We take all complaints seriously and will examine all the available evidence before deciding on an appropriate course of action.”