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How to complain to (or about) your solicitor

 
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A complaint relates to poor service by your solicitor, for example not doing what you instructed them to do, unreasonable delays, failure to keep you informed, or excessive bills etc. Complaints do not cover negligent advice from your solicitor - if you think your solicitor has given you negligent advice, you should consult another solicitor about the possibility of making a claim for compensation - all firms of solicitors must have insurance to cover compensation claims.

All solicitors firms should have a written internal complaints procedure, which you can request to see. Most procedures are essentially a two-stage process:

1. If possible, you should in the first instance try to resolve the issue with the person dealing with your matter.

2. If this is not possible, or if you are still not satisfied, then you can make your complaint to the firm's complaints partner. As mentioned above, you should have been informed at the outset of the matter who the firm's complaints partner is. The complaints partner should investigate the complaint and inform you in writing of his/her decision.

Note that the firm should not charge you for dealing with a complaint.

If you have a complaint about the solicitors bill, then this should also be dealt with through their complaints procedure, although you can also ask that the amount of the bill be assessed by the court, for which you may need to pay a court fee.

Taking the matter further

If the firm's internal complaints procedure has not resolved your complaint, or if they have not dealt with your complaint within a reasonable time (normally 28 days), then you may refer the complaint to the Legal Complaints Service ('LCS'), which deals with complaints against solicitors. Note that you should contact the LCS within six months of the end of the work your solicitor did for you, or within six months of finding out that there was a problem. The LCS will investigate your complaint and, if it is upheld, tell your solicitor to pay you compensation.

A complaint about a solicitor's professional misconduct (e.g. releasing confidential information, or keeping money that belongs to you) should be made to the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

If you have a complaint about a barrister who has acted for or advised you, then you can raise that complaint with the Bar Standards Board, which regulates barristers.

Complaints about matters relating to your legal aid should be referred to the Legal Services Commission, which runs the legal aid scheme.

Changing solicitors

If you are not happy with the service that your solicitor has provided, then there is nothing to prevent you from changing solicitors at any time, although it may not be prudent to do so just before a court hearing is due to take place, as the new solicitor may not then have time to properly prepare the hearing for you. Note, however, that you must pay any fees due to your old solicitor before they will pass your file on to your new solicitor - the old solicitor may retain the file until you have paid their bill.

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