How to sue your solicitor


injusticeSuing your solicitor should really only be a last resort, especially as the maximum award that the new Legal Complaints Service (LCS) can make is £15,000.

The big advantage of the using the LCS is that if you are not able to prove your complaint, you are not saddled with a further legal bill and the costs incurred by the solicitors in defending your claim. Plus, using the LCS does not preclude you from taking court action later.

However, if £15,000 doesn't even begin to address the source of your complaint, or your complaint involves issues of law or fact that are too complex for the LCS to adjudicate on, then the only other recourse is to take legal action against your solicitor for negligence. Negligence is defined as the failure of a solicitor to exercise the same care that a “reasonable” or “ordinary” solicitor would have taken in similar circumstances. You can also sue your solicitor for negligence if they have acted when a “reasonable” or “ordinary” solicitor in similar circumstances would not have acted (for example, in a conflict of interest situation or in a case that you had little chance of winning). The biggest single source of negligence claims is in respect of personal injury claims, followed by commercial property and conveyancing.

The potential costs of an unsuccessful claim can be serious, but if you are determined to take this course of action, you can use www.takelegaladvice.com to find firms that will take your case or you can double-check with the LCS to see which specialist solicitors are on its Negligence Panel Scheme. Solicitors will normally provide an hour's free advice on the practicalities of suing your solicitor and prospects of success in your case. If you do have a potential claim, you should then get independent legal advice (whether from the LCS's recommended lawyer or elsewhere) and inform the solicitor you intend to sue that you intend to take action. You should also check if you are eligible for legal aid or have legal expenses insurance that covers the cost.

The case can then be pursued through the courts or by contacting the solicitors' professional indemnity insurers (all practising solicitors are required to have insurance against negligence claims in place). If the insurers do become involved, they will conduct an investigation and may decide to settle your claim out of court. Whatever happens, it likely to be a drawn-out process.

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 and you may be liable for the other side's costs if you unsuccessful.

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