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Resolving complaints about solicitors

Examples of financial compensation


Ninety per cent of the awards we make in this category are £250 or less.

Example 1

Mr T instructed solicitors to complete a remortgage of his property and register it jointly to himself and his wife. The remortgage was dealt with properly, but the solicitors forgot to change ownership from Mr T to Mr and Mrs T. The mistake came to light some years later. The original firm had charged £50 for the incomplete transfer, and, by coincidence, Mr T's new solicitors made an identical charge. The original firm made a refund, but Mr T wanted compensation for his inconvenience. He said he was irritated by the situation but no more than that. There was no evidence that anyone had suffered anxiety or other distress, and we only made a modest award.

Example 2

Mr O instructed solicitors in a personal injury claim. He made a number of complaints, including bad advice and delay. The only complaint that was upheld related to the solicitors' failure to explain some matters clearly at the time. For example, they didn't note their initial advice about the likely amount of the claim, and they failed to explain why it may not have been appropriate for Mr O's lists of questions to be put to counsel (legal advisers) or the medical expert. Overall, we were satisfied that the complaints upheld were fairly modest in effect and had involved little distress or inconvenience.


Eighty per cent of the awards we make in this category are between £200 and £500.

Example 1

Solicitors handling a family law case

  • severely delayed in instructing counsel
  • delayed in reporting to the client
  • failed to answer letters
  • delayed in refunding an overpayment of counsel's fees
  • delayed in sending copy letters needed in connection with a complaint to the Bar Council

We were satisfied that these delays affected the client's progress and had caused him a lot of concern and anguish. We awarded compensation and cancelled the solicitor's bill, because the work that had been completed had been made worthless by the poor service.

Example 2

Solicitors dealing with a personal injury case acted reasonably for about nine months but, from then on, failed to provide any adequate advice on costs, risk and benefits, and delayed the matter. The case was eventually not taken any further when funding from the Legal Aid Board stopped. The partner who had handled the case refused to deal with his client's complaints and deeply upset the young client and her father. Fortunately, the complaints handling partner took over and sorted things out as best he could. However, by then, the client had lost all faith in the firm. We ordered compensation and a refund of part of the client's legal aid contributions.


Eighty per cent of the awards we make in this category are between £500 and £1,000.

Example 1

Solicitors applied for an urgent injunction for Ms P due to her partner's violent behaviour. However, they never told her about their increasing costs. Eventually, they charged her £1,800 but then reduced this to £1,200. They accepted cheques from her, but did not give her any amended account. Finally, they took six months to serve the papers. Their explanation for this was that they had difficulties serving them (but had made no note of it) and could not contact their process server because he had moved to a new address. They also failed to keep Ms P informed. They eventually served papers, but only after we had become involved. Ms P was clearly upset and distressed by this very poor service, although she had not chased her solicitors because she had not suffered further violence during the period of inactivity. If she had been assaulted again, the award would have been much higher.

Example 2

Solicitors dealing with the sale of a house, failed to tell their client (Mr S) how the estate agents' charges would be paid when the sale was completed. They also failed to provide a proper ‘client care’ letter at the start and failed to deal with their client's complaint. The estate agents took county court proceedings against Mr S, who was then caught up in an unpleasant situation for a long time. Mr S was very unhappy and felt badly treated. The county court judge agreed with him and ordered the solicitors to pay the claim as well as Mr S's costs. Neither partner in the solicitors' firm responded to our report on the case. One had his ‘assistant’ send a fax which was typical of the firm's attitude to client complaints.

Extremely serious

Awards in this category are in excess of Ј1,000.

Example 1

Miss T instructed solicitors in a number of matters including divorce, a property dispute and a financial claim. The solicitors took on all three issues and in each

  • failed to protect Miss T's interest
  • delayed in making any progress (the financial claim was ignored for over four years and was still in progress about 10 years after instructions were first given)
  • failed to provide any reliable costs and financial information

Also, Miss T received legal aid for part of the time, and she was not told about the Legal Services Commission (LSC) Statutory Charge. She was shocked and distressed when she later discovered how much she owed the LSC. Although she successfully recovered her financial loss from the solicitors (she sued them in negligence), the court did not directly compensate her for the distress she had suffered. We were able to do so.