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Happy with your Solicitor? Law Firm complaints are increasing

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New data recently published by the The Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) has revealed that complaints made against law firms in the UK have seen a 9% increase based on the previous year.

The new data, based on the most recently available figures for 2019, show that there were just under 30,900 ‘first tier’ complaints received, compared to just under 28,300 in 2018. Legal sector analysts have suggested that new changes in transparency laws, introduced at the end of 2018, may have contributed to the higher numbers with law firms now being compelled to publish details of how and when their clients lodge complaints. Overall, Law firms managed to resolve 80% of all complaints themselves, slightly less than 2018 but a big improvement on 2012 data where 71% of complaints were resolved without recourse to the regulator or formal legal proceedings.

Delays, advice and legal costs

Clients lodging complaints who are still unhappy are then entitled to approach the Legal Ombudsman with what are referred to as second-tier complaints. The SRA report found that the most common causes for complaint were delays (18%), followed by failure to advise (13%) and excessive costs (12%). Over 50% of complaints were made to ‘large’ commercial law firms, whereas ‘very large’ firms (who typically work mainly with corporate clients that have access to other routes of redress) received 12%.

Larger firms were more likely to resolve a complaint. Small firms resolved 64% of complaints, with very large firms resolving 88%, probably because the larger firms have the in-house resource and specialist departments dedicated to handling complaints. The SRA said law firms could use information provided in the report to improve their standards of service and benchmark themselves against others. SRA spokesperson and CEO Paul Philip commented:

 

People want to be treated fairly and kept well informed at all stages of dealing with a law firm. Nowhere is this more important than when handling with complaints…“Our latest report reflects law firms work over the last few years to increase awareness of their complaints processes and to resolve the issues that their clients raise with them…“Publishing year-on-year industry complaints data was one of the key commitments we made when we introduced our new transparency rules in December 2018…“One of the aims of these rules is to make data on the quality of service at law firms available so that potential clients can make informed choices when shopping around.” 

 

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