How to complain about a solicitor
We all need the assistance of lawyers from time to time.
You don’t always need a legal firm
Before you choose a legal firm you need to ascertain whether or not it is 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 mediator between you and the other party, it can be less confrontational.
Where do you turn if something goes wrong?
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. Make it clear you are raising a complaint and detail your concerns. Remember not to leave it too long before you communicate the issue;
- Give time to respond: you should allow eight weeks for the issue to be resolved. However, if by then it is not resolved or you receive no response 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;
- Failure to release data; and
- 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). It will then investigate the claim and can potentially strike the solicitor off from practising.
What if I am not happy?
At the end of the case review the Ombudsman will give you its recommendation. 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 is 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 six months after their final response from the firm in which to take your case to the Ombudsman. You may have up to six years where something comes to light that you were not aware of previously.
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.