Like any other service provider, solicitors must carry out their work with reasonable care and skill. If they do not, and you suffer as a result, you may be able to get compensation.
Before you agree to employ a solicitor, make sure you understand their terms and conditions, especially how charges are set. Ask whether there are likely to be other costs, such as search fees or barrister’s charges. If the work is to do with buying or selling a house, they must give you a written quotation of the cost.
How to complain
- Write to the head partner of the firm of solicitors and explain why you think the bill is too high. If you are still unhappy after you have got their reply, your next move depends on the type of work your solicitor was doing for you;
- If it involved court action (even though the case never got to court), ask for a detailed breakdown. If you are still unhappy, for a fee, you can ask the court to ‘tax’ your costs. This means that the court will decide what costs were reasonable;
- Time limits apply for lodging an application for Taxation. The Taxing Master’s Office can provide further guidance in that regard; and
- If no court action was involved, you can ask your solicitor to apply to The Law Society for what is called ‘a remuneration certificate’. This is a free service, but you have to ask for it within one month of getting your bill. The Law Society will look at the charge and decide whether it is reasonable. If it is not, The Law Society will say what it thinks is a reasonable charge.
- If you have received poor service, or you are dissatisfied with the way your solicitor is handling your case, but you have not suffered financial loss, you should complain to The Law Society;
- A complaint must first be raised in writing with your solicitor. Any complaint must be lodged within 6 months of conclusion of the business or within 6 months of discovering the difficulty you wish to complain about.
- If you remain dissatisfied once the solicitor has investigated the complaint you have 6 months from conclusion of the in-house complaint process to lodge a complaint with the Law Society.
- Negligence is where you suffer loss because of something your solicitor should reasonably have done or perhaps, should not have done; and
- If, through negligence, you suffer a loss of up to £3,000 you can apply to the Small Claims Court for compensation. For larger claims, you will have to find another solicitor experienced in negligence claims.