‘client’ or ‘customer’?

It seems that the Legal Ombudsman prefers ‘customer’ to ‘client’.  In an article in the Guardian last week he argues that ‘client’ is redolent of the patron/client relationship in Ancient Rome.

I think he is wrong.

First, the setup in Rome in the first century BC is unlikely to be at the forefront of most people’s thinking in 21st century Britain.

Secondly, he misunderstands how the Roman system worked – Julius Caesar would have been a patron to various clients even if he had never been a lawyer (moral: be careful how you use Wikipedia?).

Thirdly, a solicitor has a responsibility to the person he is working for that is qualitatively different from the duty a non-professional person owes to his customer not to cheat him or sell him duff goods.  Apart from anything else, he can be struck off the roll of solicitors and thus lose his livelihood if he does not uphold the highest standards in every aspect of his life.

So – ‘client’, please, not ‘customer’.