Standards of service and considering vulnerability

Why this risk matters

  • The high standards of behaviour and professional competence expected of solicitors and law firms are set through our Principles, Code of Conduct and Statement of Solicitor Competence.
  • Poor service can mean people do not receive 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.
  • It is important that advice and support is competent and professionally delivered. This is especially true as people often rely on solicitors to help them at difficult times in their lives.
  • Where there is evidence of a serious breach of our standards we will take action. For example, incompetence that causes serious harm or a pattern of poor service.

Trends

  • The most common complaints received by solicitors are about delay, failure to advise, and excessive costs.
  • Complaints usually arise about work relating to conveyancing, family law, personal injury, and wills and probate. But it is worth noting that 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.
  • We remain concerned about the service given provided by some solicitors involved in claims for mis-sold payment protection insurance and holiday sickness.
  • And we remain concerned about solicitors involved in promoting tax avoidance schemes.

Actions

  • We published independent research about the effectiveness of solicitors’ first tier complaints processes and people’s experiences of conveyancing services. Both pieces of research support findings in the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) report into the legal services market, about the lack of transparency about price, service, complaints and quality.
  • While many holiday sickness claims are genuine, we believe that some are being submitted by solicitors without proper analysis of the evidence. We are investigating some firms for issues including improper referrals from claims management companies and failing to verify cases. We published a warning notice to help everyone understand their obligations. And we updated our warning notice about risks in personal injury work.
  • We plan to introduce two clearer, shorter Codes of Conduct in 2019. These will make it easier for solicitors and the public to understand the standard of service we expect solicitors to give.
  • The Finance Act 2017 has new corporate offences for advisers, where the HMRC defeats a tax avoidance scheme they have advised on. HMRC has produced guidance on the new penalties for those involved in defeated tax avoidance legislation. In March 2018, a firm was rebuked and fined for promoting stamp duty land tax avoidance schemes.

Further information

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