If you are unhappy with the service you have received from your solicitor, a complaints procedure exists to redress this. If you wish to make a complaint about a barrister a separate procedure exists.
Your solicitor’s complaints procedure
All firms of solicitors in England and Wales will have a complaints procedure. You should ask for the complaints procedure. All firms will have a written complaints procedure and they must give you a copy if you ask for it.
The first step is to complain to your solicitor or to their firm’s complaints handling partner. Most firms will have one. You should not only state what your complaint is but also what you want them to do about it.
Please note that complaints of this sort should not relate to any negligent advice you may have been given by a solicitor. If you believe that you have received negligent advice then you should consult another solicitor and discuss the possibility of pursuing a claim for compensation. All solicitors are required to have an insurance policy that covers any possible claims for compensation.
You should not be charged for using your solicitor’s complaints service. However, if the complaint is about a bill and you ask for it to be assessed by a court, then you may need to pay the court fee.
The Legal Complaints Service (LCS)
If you are not satisfied with your solicitor’s response then the next step is to contact the LCS. This is a new service which took over responsibility for complaints about solicitors from the Law Society in 2007. The LCS will have expected you to have used your solicitor’s own complaints procedure first and will ask for evidence of this.
It will initially attempt to negotiate a settlement between you and your solicitor, but if unable to, investigate your complaint itself. It has the power to order the solicitor to reduce the bill and compensate any financial loss up to £15,000. It can also order compensation for distress and inconvenience, but this is again up to a maximum of £15,000. If your loss is greater you will need to take your solicitor to court.
If you disagree with a decision of the LCS, you can appeal to the Legal Services Ombudsman.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA)
The SRA regulates over 100,000 solicitors in England and Wales. They are the regulatory body of the Law Society of England and Wales. If your case is serious it will be referred to the SRA which can levy fines, suspend solicitors, or in bad cases, have them struck off.
Complaints about bills
If your complaint is about your bill, the Legal Complaints Service (LCS) has a bill checking service which is free. It will determine whether your bill is fair and reasonable. However, when a bill relates to court proceedings you will have to ask the court to assess whether your bill is fair.