News release

Guidance aims to keep clients informed

New guidance produced by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) should help keep clients more informed about how to complain if unhappy with their legal representation.

The SRA has worked with the Bar Standards Board (BSB) to draw up the guidance, which reminds solicitors of their obligations when it comes to informing clients of complaints procedures. While solicitors are making complaints information available to clients directly, when they instruct barristers, not all are passing on this secondary package of information.

Barristers too have an obligation to make complaints information available, but if solicitors do not forward on the details or give barristers contact information for the client, then they are unable to fulfil this requirement. The expectations for this were introduced by the Legal Services Board in May 2010, and these requirements were subsequently reflected in the SRA's Code of Conduct 2011 and the BSB's Handbook.

Crispin Passmore, SRA Executive Director for Policy, said: "Since these requirements were introduced, we have become aware that some clients are not being informed of their right to make a complaint about barristers. Without these details, barristers are unable to fulfil their signposting requirements without further co-operation from their instructing practitioner.

"While it might seem a small matter to some, for clients it can be very important if they don't feel they can complain if they are not happy with the service they are receiving. This guidance should help solicitors to ensure they help barristers comply, and therefore keep clients fully informed."

Head of Supervision at the Bar Standards Board, Oliver Hanmer, added: “In the past, we know that many chambers have reported difficulties in relying on instructing solicitors to pass on this information to clients or to provide their contact details to chambers. We welcome the steps the SRA has taken to make this easier for solicitors and barristers alike. As a regulator with a duty to protect the public, making clients aware of their right to complain is paramount to ensuring confidence in the profession."

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