How to complain about your lawyer


Nobody's perfect, but solicitors seem to get it wrong more than most.
 
The Legal Complaints Service receives more than 17,000 complaints about solicitors a year, a rise of 14% in three years.
 
Among other things, common causes for complaint include unexpected bills, negligence – for instance failure to spot legal problems with a property or missing crucial deadlines – and failing to follow instructions.
 
If you have a complaint, the first step should be to raise your concerns with the law firm concerned.
 
Most will have a partner whose job it is to handle complaints but, if not, then contact the firm's senior partner.
 
This can be done by in person, by phone, letter, or by using a resolution form which can be supplied by the Legal Complaints Service, Citizens Advice Bureau or sometimes solicitors' firms themselves.
 
If making the complaint by telephone or in person, be sure to make notes of what was said and in all cases, ask the solicitor to confirm in writing what they intend to do about your complaint and the date by which they will do it.
 
Experience no joy here and the next step is to contact the Legal Complaints Service within six months of the end of the work that the solicitor did for you.
 
The Legal Complaints Service (LCS) is a new organisation that took over responsibility for complaints from the Law Society in 2007.
 
Initially, it will try to negotiate a settlement between you and your solicitor and, if unsuccessful, investigate your complaint.
 
It has the power to order the solicitor to reduce your bill, rectify any mistakes and make good any financial loss (up to a maximum of £15,000).
 
It also has the power to order the solicitor to pay compensation for distress and inconvenience, again to a maximum of £15,000, although the average payout is £450. If your loss is greater than this, you will have to take your solicitor to court.
 
In serious cases, it can also refer your case to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).
 
The SRA can issue reprimands to solicitors if it considers the complaint constitutes professional misconduct, levy fines, suspend solicitors or in the worst cases, have them struck off.
 
For complaints about bills, the LCS has a free bill-checking service, which will decide whether your bill is fair and reasonable. The only exception to this rule is when a bill relates to court proceedings (such as in divorce cases) in which case you will have to ask the court to assess your bill (see contact details below).
 
If you disagree with the decision of the LCS, you can appeal to the Legal Services Ombudsman. See contact details below.
 
Legal Complaints Service
0845 608 6565
 
Supreme Court Costs Office
020 7947 7124
 
Legal Services Ombudsman
0845 601 0794