Len Dastard reports - solicitors charging for complaints (about themselves)
A recent YouGov poll of clients of the legal profession showed that an estimated one in seven lawyers charge clients for making complaints about the conduct of their case.
Many of the complaints made about the solicitors (which the solicitors were then charging clients to handle) were:
43% - legal advice too slow
42% - poor quality of service
38% - mistakes were made
25% - cost more than thought
15% - legal advice proved wrong
13% - lawyer was more junior than expected
Of the 1,275 surveyed, 16% said that they believed they were charged for making a complaint and 57% of the people were not even aware of the complaints procedure.
Chief Executive of the Legal Services Board, Chris Kenny, slammed the results as “totally unacceptable”, and said:
“The message from these findings is that too many lawyers are missing the chance to learn from substantial numbers of consumers who make a complaint. Improving the situation is an urgent priority for consumer protection, for the improving the service itself and for enhancing public confidence in lawyers”.
Solicitors are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority code of conduct and Rule 2.05(3) states: “You must not charge your client for the cost of handling a complaint”. It is laughable that this even needs to be included in the code when surely it should be common sense.
I know from experience that the Solicitors Regulation Authority does work hard to ensure that the client is given adequate information from their solicitor about the level of costs and the complaints procedure. The SRA will undoubtedly come down hard on firms that do not follow their code of conduct.
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