How to complain about a solicitor?

We all need the assistance of lawyers from time to time: for example when buying a home, conflict resolution with a company or partner and probate, to name but a few. 

I Stock Solicitor Pic

The standards we expect from legal firms are increasing as our expectations of service quality increases. 

You don’t always need a legal firm

Before you even choose a legal firm, you need to ascertain whether or not they are the right firm for you as there may be alternatives. For example, if you are buying a home you could choose a conveyancing firm rather than a lawyer. A conveyancing firm is not necessarily a legal firm but specialises in the buying and selling of homes.

If you have a dispute with an individual or company you could consider mediation as an alternative. Mediation is focused on finding a compromise that both parties are happy with. It can be cheaper and as there is one party mediating between you and the other party, it can be less confrontational.

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Where do you turn if something goes wrong?

If you do have a case, what should you do? We will also explain some typical cases where you may want to make a complaint.

Once you appointed the firm they should have explained their complaints process so follow this as a starting point.
  • Keep a written record: ensure you raise the issue in writing and make it clear this is a complaint and detail your concerns. Remember not to leave it too long before you communicate the issue.
  • Give them time to respond: you should allow 8 weeks for the issue to be resolved. However, if it is not you can escalate your case. For most cases you should escalate your case to the Legal Ombudsman. 
  • Assessment of the case: the Legal Ombudsman will appoint someone to assess your case within 10 working days and aims to resolve your case within 90-days.

What can I complain about? 

The Legal Ombudsman is there to receive complaints about all key issues of legal firm services, including:

  • Failure to advise
  • Excessive costs
  • Misconduct
  • Failure to release data
  • Slow or ineffective conduct or misrepresentation
If your case relates to failure to comply with professional obligations such as keeping your record private or acting honestly and with integrity then you can complain to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). They will then investigate the claim and can potentially strike the solicitor off from practicing.

What if I am not happy?

At the end of the case review the Ombudsman will give you their recommendation. Typically 45% of cases receive compensation but even more cases are held in the consumers favour. The Ombudsman can authorise compensation up to £50,000 but most cases, which are granted compensation receive less than £1,000.

If you are happy then the case is closed and if the case is held in your favour, then you cannot take any further action. If the case is not held in your favour, you have 10 days in which to challenge the decision. The same applies to the legal firm.

The Legal Ombudsman are legally binding against the company, if you have accepted the Ombudsman decision.

How long can I claim for? 

If you have raised the case as a complaint with your legal firm you now have 6-months after their final response from the firm in which to take your case to the Ombudsman. You may have up to 6 years where something comes to light that you were not aware.

Are there any costs? 

The Legal Ombudsman is a free service and is paid for by legal firms through case fees and an annual subscription.

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Who do you have an issue with?

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