Standards of service and considering vulnerability

Why this risk matters

  • We set the high standards of behaviour and professional competence expected of solicitors and law firms in our Principles, Code of Conduct and Statement of Solicitor Competence.
  • Poor service often leads to people not receiving the help they need. This can have a greater impact when someone is vulnerable, for example, because they are going through a stressful situation or if they are at risk of harm.
  • People rely on solicitors to help them, often at difficult times in their lives. It is important advice and support is competent and professionally delivered.
  • If a person or small business feel they have received a poor service from a solicitor, they can complain to the solicitor, and ultimately the Legal Ombudsman.
  • Where there is evidence of a serious breach of our standards we will take action in the public interest. For example, incompetence that causes serious harm or a pattern of poor quality service.

Trends

  • Year on year, the most common complaints received by solicitors are about delay, failure to advise, and excessive costs.
  • Complaints are usually about work relating to conveyancing, family law, personal injury, and wills and probate. But these are common areas of law, where many people use a solicitor.
  • We also see concerns raised about criminal practice and asylum and immigration work.

Actions

  • Solicitors must inform their clients of complaints procedures and respond to all complaints promptly and fairly.
  • Our report providing services to people who are vulnerable brings together a range of resources, information and case studies about providing services to people who are vulnerable.
  • The Office of the Public Guardian’s Practice note, acting as a professional attorney provides guidance for solicitors preparing to act as an attorney under a lasting power of attorney.
  • Our research into consumer and firm experiences of first tier complaints, which is jointly commissioned with the Legal Ombudsman, will be published in late 2017.
  • We have resources for solicitors working in the Youth Court, and recently conducted a review of firms working in the asylum and immigration sector.
  • We plan to introduce two clearer, shorter Codes of Conduct before the end of 2018. These will make it easier for solicitors and the public to understand the standard of service we expect solicitors to provide.

Further information