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LSRA receives over 800 complaints about barristers and solicitors in 6 month period

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Ireland

The Legal Services Regulatory Authority (LSRA) has published its most recent report, in which it states that between 4 September 2021 and 4 March 2022 the regulator received more than 800 complaints about solicitors and barristers. Of the 822 complaints received, 799 related to solicitors.
 
The LSRA took over the role of receiving and investigating complaints about solicitors and barristers in October 2019, and pursuant to section 73(1) of the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015 (the Act) the LSRA is obliged to report on the performance of its complaints function at six-monthly intervals, with this being its fifth such report.

Breakdown of Complaints

Of the 822 complaints received by the LSRA's Complaints and Resolutions Unit:
  • 577 complaints (70%) related to alleged misconduct;
  • 213 complaints (26%) related to alleged provision of inadequate legal services; and
  • 32 complaints (4%) related to alleged excessive costs / overcharging.

During this reporting period, the LSRA closed 811 of those complaints received. Of note:
  • 376 complaints were deemed inadmissible; and
  • 342 complaints were closed before a decision was made on whether they were admissible, broken down as follows:
    • 225 resolved informally with the assistance of the LSRA;
    • 90 withdrawn;
    • 14 deferred;
    • 2 involved legal practitioners no longer in practise; and
    • 11 unable to proceed for other reasons.

The LSRA made determinations of inadequate standards of legal services and excessive costs in a total of 36 complaints, directing payments from legal practitioners to their clients of sums ranging between €500 and €2,500. Other directions included directing solicitors to transfer files to a new solicitor and to produce estate accounts.

Emerging Themes

Failures in communication between legal practitioners and their clients remains a significant feature of complaints received, with the LSRA emphasising that a number of the complaints could have been avoided by legal practitioners dealing promptly with correspondence.

Another theme identified by the LSRA relates to the failure of solicitors to comply with undertakings, highlighting that the volume of such complaints has increased from 134 to 209 on the previous reporting period, with the LSRA urging practitioners to ensure undertakings are complied with in a timely fashion, compliance with undertakings is monitored and correspondence following up on undertakings is not ignored.

The report includes a reminder to legal practitioners of the rules around the advertising of legal services, as well as outlining for consumers the level of transparency they should expect about the costs of the legal services they are receiving.

The report indicates that a total of 1,802 phone calls and emails were received over the six-month period requesting information and/or complaint forms, with wills and probate, litigation, conveyancing and family law among the areas of legal services to which complaints most related, reflecting a pattern largely consistent with that seen in previous reports.

Overall, the LSRA managed a third more complaints in comparison to the previous reporting period, notable given the challenges faced by staff, complainants and legal practitioners as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Nonetheless, the report also highlighted a higher level of engagement from legal practitioners and complainants in the informal resolution process than seen in previous reports, with legal practitioners and complainant's alike showing a willingness to positively engage at the beginning of the grievance process as reflected in a lesser number of complaints proceeding forward for determination by the LSRA.

The full report is available here.

Written by: Zoe Richardson and Dena Keane
 

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