We all expect a high standard of advice and conduct when we consult legal professionals. Usually, this is the case. Sometimes, however, things can go wrong. When they do, the prospect of lodging a complaint can seem a daunting one.
All legal professionals, however, are strictly regulated and you should not be put off from making your concerns known.
Complaints against solicitors are dealt with in a separate article (What To Do If You Believe Your Solicitor Is Negligent).
If your complaint relates to barristers, legal executives or licensed conveyancers, then different procedures apply.
The Bar Standards Board operates a complaints handling system for consumers. Its website is at www.barstandardsboard.org.uk. It is based in London, and its telephone number is 020 7611 1444.
First, you will have to complete a complaints form. This can be downloaded from the website. If you have difficulties with this, then the Board’s complaints team can assist you. The Board will then keep you advised of any disciplinary hearings or further action. You may be eligible for compensation.
You can make a complaint about a barrister, even where they were not acting for you. However, you will only be eligible for compensation where the barrister alleged to be at fault was acting for you.
Legal executives are usually employed by a firm of solicitors. Complaints should be made to the firm, and may follow a similar procedure as that for solicitors.
The professional body for legal executives may also take action against the individual involved, or pay compensation to the client.
Legal executives are members of Ilex—the Institute of Legal Executives—and must adhere to a code of conduct. Ilex set up a new regulatory arm in October 2008, called Ilex Professional Standards Ltd.
Ilex has the power to admonish, reprimand or warn its members. It can refer its members to an investigating committee or a disciplinary tribunal, and the member can be ordered to pay a fine of up to £3,000 plus costs and compensation to the client.
Licensed conveyancers are regulated by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers.
Complaints should be made in writing to the Council, preferably on a complaint form which is available from the Council’s offices or downloadable from its website at www.conveyancer.org.uk.
Licensed conveyancers must follow rules of conduct, and should reply promptly to any concerns you have. Where you report a complaint to the Council, it will be referred to an investigating committee.
The investigating committee can order conveyancers to: repay costs; pay the client compensation of up to £5,000 for loss suffered, distress and inconvenience; rectify any error at their expense; and undergo disciplinary proceedings.
Claims for professional negligence are handled by the courts, and are usually settled out of court by the professional’s insurers. You may want to seek independent legal advice on whether you have a viable case.
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