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Resolving complaints about solicitors

Complaints made to us

If we receive a complaint about your firm, there are various steps we will follow:

Our initial review

The different stages of a complaint

What we expect from you

Our initial review

When we receive a complaint about your firm we will identify the issues so you can respond to them.

If the complaint relates to your professional service and we do not find any "inadequate professional service" (poor service), we will take no further action.

If we feel the service was inadequate we will write to you to explain why.

The different stages of a complaint

Initial stage

If we feel the service was inadequate we will write to you explaining the issues which we need you to look at. You will be asked to let us have your full response by the date shown in our letter, together with any supporting documents.

Once we have received your response, we will do one of the following;

  • write to you and the person making the complaint, explaining why we will take no further action
  • let you know what further investigation is needed
  • let you know whether a formal decision is needed and explain how we will do this
  • invite you to reach an agreement with your client in order to resolve the complaint

Further stage

Informal resolution

If we feel that you provided an inadequate professional service we will usually try to resolve the complaint by encouraging you and your client to agree a solution that is acceptable to you both.

Sometimes a resolution can be reached when the solicitor agrees to provide compensation, at an appropriate level. To help you and your client come to an agreement we will make available to you our compensation guidance which gives examples of different levels of compensation depending on the seriousness of the consequences of the inadequate service.

Reasonable Offer Made

If we feel you have made a reasonable proposal to your client to deal with the inadequacy of service, but your client refuses to accept the offer, we may choose to close our file.

Formal decision

If an agreement can't be reached between you and your client, and no reasonable offer has been we can apply one or more of our powers, which include:

  • reduce your bill (all or part of it)
  • tell you to pay your client compensation of up to Ј15,000
  • tell you to take specific action

To apply any of these powers your caseworker would first prepare a report setting out their understanding of the issues of complaint, and stating what they feel would be an appropriate outcome. Our report would then be sent to you and your client for comments.

The next stage would be for an Adjudicator to consider the report, and comments, and make a decision.

Professional conduct

Sometimes, complaints about poor service also reveal that the rules of conduct have been broken. In these cases we will generally deal with the complaint about poor service first and then pass information in relation to the conduct rules being broken to the Solicitors Regulation Authority. They will decide whether any action is needed.

What we expect from you

While we adopt and encourage an informal and flexible approach, you are under a professional obligation to reply to us (rule 20.03 in the Solicitors Code of Conduct 2007). It is important that you return our phone calls quickly and reply to our enquiries within the timeframes that we will give.

If you do not provide a satisfactory explanation in response to the complaint we may take the following action:

  • we can request you send us the file to examine under Section 44B Solicitors Act 1974
  • we can appoint an agent to recover papers and money for your client under paragraph 3, schedule 1 of the Solicitors Act 1974. Using this power overrides any 'lien' you may otherwise have
  • we may make a higher award of compensation in your client's favour if you cannot provide evidence that you took reasonable steps to sort out the matter under Rule 2

We can provide our literature for you to display that expains to your clients our role and what we can do. Please email for copies.