Complaints against solicitors can arise when there is dissatisfaction with the service provided, professional misconduct, or breach of confidentiality. Understanding the process for initiating a complaint and the rights of the complainant is crucial in seeking resolution and redress. This article provides an overview of the complaints procedure for solicitors, including key takeaways to help individuals navigate the process effectively and protect their rights.

Key Takeaways

Overview of the Solicitors Regulation Authority

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Role and Responsibilities

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) plays a pivotal role in the regulation of solicitors and law firms in England and Wales. Its primary responsibility is to protect the public by ensuring that solicitors meet high professional standards, thereby upholding the integrity of the legal profession. The SRA’s duties encompass a wide range of activities, including the setting and maintenance of professional standards, the licensing of individuals and firms to practice law, and the enforcement of compliance through disciplinary measures.

Key responsibilities of the SRA include:

Tip: If you suspect a breach of professional standards, it is important to document your interactions with the solicitor or firm as this information may be crucial in any subsequent investigation by the SRA.

Regulatory Framework

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) operates under a comprehensive regulatory framework that is designed to maintain the integrity and competence of the legal profession. This framework encompasses a range of rules and regulations that solicitors must adhere to, ensuring that they provide services that meet the high standards expected by clients and the public.

Key components of the SRA’s regulatory framework include:

Compliance with these regulations is mandatory, and failure to do so can result in disciplinary action. Solicitors are expected to be familiar with these rules and integrate them into their daily practice to avoid any breaches that could compromise client trust or lead to legal repercussions.

It is essential for clients to understand the regulatory framework as it provides a basis for evaluating the conduct of their solicitor. If a solicitor’s actions are found to be in violation of these regulations, it may constitute grounds for a complaint.

Identifying Grounds for Complaint

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Service Dissatisfaction

When engaging the services of a solicitor, clients have the right to expect a certain standard of professionalism and care. Service dissatisfaction arises when these expectations are not met, leading to a potential complaint. It is essential to understand that not all negative experiences constitute grounds for a formal complaint; however, genuine concerns about the quality of service received from a solicitor should be addressed.

The initial step in addressing service dissatisfaction is to communicate your concerns directly to the person responsible for your case. If the response is unsatisfactory, the issue should be escalated to a higher authority within the firm, such as the Customer Service Manager or the Director of Professional Standards. Firms typically have an internal complaints procedure that outlines the process for handling such matters.

Tip: Always document your interactions and the responses received when raising a complaint, as this can be crucial if the matter needs to be escalated further.

If after following the internal complaints process you remain dissatisfied, you may consider taking your complaint to an external body, such as the Legal Ombudsman. It is important to note that there are time limits within which a complaint must be lodged, so timely action is advised.

Professional Misconduct

Professional misconduct by solicitors refers to behavior that violates the standards of professional conduct expected in the legal profession. This may include unethical behavior, conflicts of interest, or failure to meet the duty of care to clients. If you believe a solicitor has engaged in professional misconduct, it is important to gather evidence and documentation to support your complaint. This may include correspondence records, financial transactions, and witness statements. Additionally, it is advisable to seek legal advice to understand your rights and options for recourse. If you are unsure about the grounds for your complaint, engaging with professional bodies or reporting to the Solicitors Regulation Authority can provide clarity and guidance.

Breach of Confidentiality

The protection of confidential information is a fundamental feature of the solicitor-client relationship. A breach of confidentiality occurs when a solicitor discloses information provided by a client without consent or lawful excuse. This can severely undermine trust and may have legal consequences.

When considering a complaint for a breach of confidentiality, it is essential to determine whether the information was indeed confidential and if the solicitor had a duty to protect it. Examples of confidential information include, but are not limited to, personal details, business affairs, and legal advice provided.

Tip: Always document any exchanges that you believe may pertain to a breach of confidentiality, as this can be critical evidence in your complaint.

If you suspect a breach, the following steps should be taken:

Initiating the Complaints Procedure

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Internal Complaints Process

When you encounter an issue with the services provided by a solicitor, the first step in the complaints procedure is to engage with the firm’s internal complaints process. This is a crucial step that allows the firm to address and resolve your concerns without the need for external intervention.

To initiate a complaint, it is generally required that you put your concerns in writing and address them to the firm’s complaints manager. The following list outlines the typical steps you should take:

During the investigation, a Team Manager or equivalent may review the service provided and discuss the matter with you directly, aiming to reach a satisfactory conclusion. It is important to note that firms should not charge for the time spent managing your complaint internally.

Tip: Always keep a copy of your written complaint and any correspondence related to the complaint for your records. This documentation may be necessary if you need to escalate the matter to the Legal Ombudsman or seek further legal advice.

Escalation to the Legal Ombudsman

If your dissatisfaction with a solicitor’s service remains unresolved after the internal complaints process, you may escalate the matter to the Legal Ombudsman. This independent body offers a free service to help resolve legal service disputes. It is crucial to note that complaints should be made within one year of the act or omission, or within one year of when you first became aware of the issue.

To initiate a complaint with the Legal Ombudsman, you should provide a clear account of your concerns, along with any relevant documentation. The following list outlines the basic steps to take:

Remember, do not send original documents as they will be scanned and destroyed; copies are sufficient for review purposes.

The Ombudsman has the discretion to accept complaints outside the usual time frame if it is considered ‘fair and reasonable’ to do so. However, they may dismiss a case if it is deemed that the complainant has not suffered significant loss or if the complaint requires a disproportionate use of resources.

Alternative Dispute Resolution Options

When internal and ombudsman-led resolutions do not yield satisfactory outcomes, Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) may be considered. ADR encompasses a variety of methods, such as mediation and arbitration, aimed at resolving disputes without resorting to litigation. It is often a faster, less formal, and more cost-effective option.

Several ADR providers, including Pro-Mediate and Small Claims Mediation, are equipped to handle complaints about legal services. It is important to note that both parties must agree to engage in ADR. For online or electronic contract disputes, the EU’s Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) platform provides a centralized point of entry for resolving such issues, accessible at This platform is particularly beneficial for consumer clients.

Tip: Before opting for ADR, consider the willingness of the other party to participate and the nature of your complaint to ensure it is an appropriate avenue for resolution.

Documentation and Evidence Gathering

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Correspondence Records

Upon receipt of your complaint, an acknowledgement letter will ordinarily be issued within five (5) business days. This letter will include the following information: The name of the person investigating the complaint; If appropriate, confirmation of our understanding of the nature of your complaint and a statement that you should contact us if you disagree with this. Investigation of complaints We will promptly and thoroughly investigate all complaints. The investigation will usually be carried out by the person responsible for overall complaints handling. What will happen next? 1. We shall send you a letter, acknowledging your complaint and asking you to confirm or explain the details which you have given to us. 2. We shall record your complaint in our central register and open a file. 3. We shall respond promptly to your reply to our acknowledgement letter and confirm what will happen next. 4. We shall then begin to investigate your complaint. This may involve our taking one or more of the following steps: – We may ask the member of staff who acted for you to reply to your complaint within five working days. We may examine his or her reply and the information in your complaint file. We will investigate these in chronological order of receipt, therefore your complaint may take longer to be actioned should you send more than one message.

Financial Transactions

Financial Transactions are a crucial aspect of evidence gathering in complaints procedures. It is essential to maintain detailed records of all financial transactions related to the solicitor-client relationship. This includes invoices, receipts, and any financial agreements. Accuracy in documenting financial transactions is paramount to substantiate any claims of financial misconduct or discrepancies.

When gathering evidence related to financial transactions, it is advisable to organize the information in a structured manner. This can be achieved through the use of a Markdown table to present quantitative data such as transaction dates, amounts, and descriptions. A well-organized table can provide a clear overview of the financial interactions and aid in the assessment of any irregularities.

It is important to note that financial evidence plays a significant role in supporting complaints related to billing disputes, overcharging, or unauthorized financial activities. Therefore, meticulous documentation and organization of financial records are fundamental to the complaints procedure.

Tip: Ensure that all financial records are securely stored and easily accessible. This will facilitate the review process and strengthen the validity of any financial claims.

Witness Statements

After obtaining witness statements, it is crucial to ensure that all relevant documentation and evidence are gathered to support the complaint. This includes maintaining correspondence records, documenting financial transactions, and organizing any additional witness statements. Gathering comprehensive evidence is essential for substantiating the complaint and facilitating a thorough investigation process. Additionally, it is important to be meticulous in the collection and organization of evidence to strengthen the case for complaint resolution.

Understanding the Legal Ombudsman’s Process

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Eligibility Criteria

Eligibility Criteria

The eligibility criteria for lodging a complaint with the Legal Ombudsman are crucial to ensure that complaints are within the scope of the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction. It is important to note that only complaints relating to the service provided by a solicitor or a law firm can be considered by the Legal Ombudsman. The criteria include, but are not limited to, the time frame within which the complaint must be brought forward, the nature of the complaint, and the attempts made to resolve the issue directly with the solicitor or law firm.

It is advisable to thoroughly review the eligibility criteria before proceeding with a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman. This can help in understanding the requirements and ensuring that the complaint falls within the Ombudsman’s purview. Additionally, seeking legal advice on the eligibility criteria can provide valuable insights into the likelihood of a successful resolution through the Ombudsman’s process.

Tip: Before initiating a complaint with the Legal Ombudsman, carefully assess whether the complaint meets the eligibility criteria to avoid unnecessary delays and complications in the resolution process.

Investigation Procedures

The investigation procedures for complaints are conducted promptly and thoroughly. A suitably qualified partner, who has not been directly involved in the subject matter of the complaint, usually carries out the investigation. The timescales for the investigation are as follows:

  1. Within four (4) weeks of receiving the complaint, the firm will either:

    • Send the final response after completing the investigation, or
    • Send a holding letter explaining why they are not in a position to resolve the complaint and advising when further contact will be made.
  2. By the end of eight (8) weeks, the firm will provide the final response and inform the complainant of their other remedies at that stage.

In addition, a detailed written report will be produced at the conclusion of the investigation. This report will explain the outcome of the investigation, the nature and terms of any offer of compensation, or reasons for not making an offer, and any further remedies that may be available to the complainant.

Resolution and Redress

The Legal Ombudsman’s process is designed to provide redress for clients who have experienced unsatisfactory service or professional misconduct. It involves a thorough investigation of the complaint, followed by a resolution process that aims to address the client’s concerns and provide appropriate compensation where necessary. The Legal Ombudsman’s process is guided by eligibility criteria that determine which complaints can be considered for investigation. It is essential for clients to familiarize themselves with these criteria to ensure that their complaints are eligible for consideration. Additionally, the investigation procedures are structured to ensure fairness and impartiality, allowing both the client and the solicitor to present their case and provide evidence to support their positions. Finally, the resolution and redress phase aims to bring closure to the complaint, either through a formal decision or through a mediated settlement. This process is designed to uphold the rights of clients and ensure that they receive fair treatment and appropriate redress for any grievances.

Legal Recourse and Remedies

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Apologies and Rectifications

When a complaint against a solicitor is upheld, the first step towards resolution often involves apologies and rectifications. An apology from the solicitor or firm acknowledges the error and serves as a formal admission of fault. Rectifications are actions taken to correct the mistake and prevent similar issues from arising in the future.

The process typically follows these steps:

  1. Acknowledgment of the complaint and the issues raised by the client.
  2. A thorough investigation into the matter to ascertain the facts.
  3. An official apology issued to the client for the distress and inconvenience caused.
  4. Implementation of corrective measures to address the error and improve services.
  5. Monitoring and follow-up to ensure that the rectifications are effective and the client is satisfied with the outcome.

Tip: Always document the apologies and rectifications process. This documentation can be crucial if further disputes arise or if the matter escalates to the Legal Ombudsman or other regulatory bodies.


After seeking legal advice, individuals may pursue compensation through the legal process. This may involve filing a claim with the appropriate authority or court. It’s important to gather all relevant documentation and evidence to support the claim, including correspondence records, financial transactions, and witness statements. Additionally, engaging with professional bodies and reporting to the Solicitors Regulation Authority can provide further support and protection for your rights. Seeking legal advice is crucial in understanding the options available for pursuing compensation.

Disciplinary Actions

After considering the available legal recourse and remedies, it is important to understand the potential for disciplinary actions against solicitors. Disciplinary actions may be taken in response to professional misconduct or unethical behaviour. This could include dishonesty, mishandling of funds, or unfair treatment based on age, disability, or other characteristics. It is crucial to be aware of the process for raising concerns with the Solicitors Regulation Authority, which can be found on their website: Solicitors Regulation Authority.

Protecting Your Rights

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Engaging with Professional Bodies

When engaging with professional bodies, it is important to adhere to their guidelines and standards. Professional bodies such as the Bristol Law Society and the Employment Lawyers Association (ELA) provide valuable resources and support for solicitors. It is essential to stay informed about the latest developments and best practices in the legal profession. Additionally, maintaining active involvement in these bodies can enhance professional networking and career opportunities. Adhering to the guidelines and standards of professional bodies ensures a high-quality service and promotes professional development.

Seeking Legal Advice

When navigating the complexities of a complaint against a solicitor, seeking legal advice can be a crucial step in ensuring your rights are fully protected. Legal advisors can provide clarity on the merits of your case and guide you through the procedural intricacies. It’s important to consult with a legal professional who specializes in the area of law relevant to your complaint.

Selecting the right legal advisor involves considering their expertise, reputation, and experience with similar cases. Here are some factors to consider:

Tip: Engage with a legal advisor as early as possible to allow ample time for case preparation and to ensure all deadlines are met.

Remember, while legal advice may incur costs, it can be a valuable investment in achieving a satisfactory resolution to your complaint.

Reporting to the Solicitors Regulation Authority

If your efforts to resolve a complaint through the internal procedures of a solicitor’s firm or through the Legal Ombudsman have not been satisfactory, you may consider reporting the issue directly to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). This step is particularly relevant where you believe there has been a breach of professional conduct or the SRA’s regulatory standards.

When reporting to the SRA, it is essential to provide a clear and detailed account of your concerns. The following information should typically be included in your report:

Tip: Before reporting to the SRA, ensure that you have gathered all relevant documentation and evidence to substantiate your claims. This will aid the SRA in assessing your complaint more efficiently.

The SRA takes all complaints seriously and will review your submission to determine if there has been a violation of the SRA Code of Conduct. If necessary, they may initiate further investigative procedures. It is important to note that the SRA does not provide redress or compensation but can take disciplinary action against solicitors or firms found to be in breach of regulations.

Protecting your rights is essential in today’s complex legal landscape. At KJ Conroy & Co. Solicitors, we are committed to providing expert legal advice and representation to ensure that your rights are safeguarded. Whether you are facing a legal dispute, seeking compensation, or navigating a complex legal matter, our team is here to guide you every step of the way. Book a consultation with us today and take the first step towards protecting your rights.


In conclusion, it is essential for clients to understand their rights when it comes to the complaints procedure for solicitors. The process of making a complaint should be approached with clarity and promptness, allowing solicitors the opportunity to address and resolve any issues. Clients have the right to seek assessment of charges and report misconduct to the Solicitors Regulation Authority. It is important to follow the established complaints procedure and, if necessary, utilize alternative complaints bodies for resolution. Overall, the complaints procedure serves as a mechanism for accountability and transparency in the legal services industry.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I make a complaint to my solicitor?

You should first complain to your solicitor, following their internal complaints process. Be clear on the issue and how you want it resolved, and give them up to eight weeks to resolve your complaint.

What if I am dissatisfied with my solicitor’s bill?

If you are dissatisfied with your solicitor’s bill, you have the right to apply to the High Court for an assessment of the charges. It is recommended to first use the solicitor’s complaints procedure before making such an application.

How can I report misconduct or breach of the SRA Code of Conduct by a solicitor?

You can report misconduct or breach of the SRA Code of Conduct by a solicitor to the Solicitors Regulation Authority. They will acknowledge your complaint and investigate it, providing you with details of the person handling your complaint within seven working days.

What if I am unhappy with the behavior of a legal practitioner?

If you are unhappy with the behavior of a legal practitioner, you can seek assistance from the Solicitors Regulation Authority. They can help address concerns such as dishonesty, mishandling of funds, or unfair treatment based on age, disability, or other characteristics.

What is the process for making a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman?

To make a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman, you need to download and fill in the Complaint Form, providing details such as your name, contact information, the legal practitioner’s details, the main points of your complaint, and the results you would like to achieve.

Are there alternative options for resolving complaints about legal services?

Yes, alternative complaints bodies exist, such as Pro Mediate UK Limited, which can handle complaints about legal services if both the client and the firm agree to use such a scheme. However, the Legal Ombudsman Service may not be used if an alternative scheme is in place.

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