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Complaints against Solicitors
A complaint against a solicitor may be about overcharging, a complaint about poor service by your solicitor or a general complaint about how you were dealt with by him or her. You may also wish to complain about someone else’s solicitor. In all cases you should first of all complain to the firm itself so that, if possible, your problem can be settled without taking the matter further. If your problem is not resolved, you should refer the matter to the senior partner in the firm, or the partner who has specific responsibility for dealing with complaints. If the problem is still not resolved, the action you take next will depend on the nature of your complaint.
Complaints about overcharging
Once you have tried to resolve this informally, there are two options open to you. The first is ask your solicitor to apply to the Legal Complaints Service (LCS) for a Remuneration Certificate. Your solicitor should have informed you of the right to apply for a Remuneration Certificate when you received the bill. If you were informed, then you have one month from the date you received the bill to apply. If your solicitor did not inform you, you have three months from the date you received the bill to apply for a Certificate.
The LCS will assess the work that your solicitor carried out and calculate what would be a fair amount. They will then inform you of their assessment and you and your solicitor will have a chance to comment before the LCS produces the final Certificate. The LCS can reduce the bill, or it can leave the bill the same. However, it will not increase the bill, so there is no chance that you will be asked to pay more if you apply for a Remuneration Certificate (though if you have not paid the bill and the LCS finds that the bill is fair your solicitor may charge you interest). The Remuneration Certificate itself is free, so you will not be charged by the LCS or your solicitor if you want to apply for a Certificate.
For more information on Remuneration Certificates and the Remuneration Scheme, see the LCS website here.
Assessment is the way of having your bill assessed by the courts. (In other words, the court will check that your bill is fair.) Court Assessment of costs is a complex procedure and you are strongly advised to seek detailed legal advice if you are considering applying for it. If you apply for Court Assessment you are likely to be required to pay costs, and you may have to pay the costs of your solicitors as well.
For more information about assessment, see the HM Court Service website here.
Complaints about the conduct of your lawyer or poor service
If your complaint is about the way your lawyer has handled your case or if you feel you received poor service, the Legal Complaints Service may again be able to help. They investigate complaints of poor service and/or misconduct made against any solicitor in England or Wales.
The LCS will expect you to have complained to your solicitor first, and to give them the opportunity to put the matter right. However, in exceptional cases they will consider a complaint even where you have not complained to the solicitor first.
If the LCS uphold your complaint they can require the solicitor to reduce your bill, pay you compensation (up to a maximum £15.000) or require him or her to take specific action and to pay the costs involved.
For more details of how to complain to the LCS, see their website here
If you are dissatisfied with a decision of the LCS or the way your complaint was handled by them, you have three months from the date of their decision to refer the matter to the Legal Services Ombudsman who regulates complaints about the legal profession. You can find out more about the Ombudsman by visiting their website here.
If you consider that your solicitor was negligent and you suffered loss as a result of that negligence, you may want to consider bringing a civil action against the solicitor. Civil actions are complex and you should seek detailed legal advice if you want to consider bringing proceedings. For more information on bringing a civil action see Civil Action.