The SLCC has been successful in securing a file required to investigate a complaint, but only after raising court proceedings against the firm in question.
Following a complaint made to it, the SLCC had first requested the file from the firm in May 2021, and had issued a reminder, before advising the firm that court proceedings would be brought against it to secure the file. The SLCC raised proceedings in September 2021, and while the firm did not engage with the proceedings, the files were eventually produced in November 2021. The SLCC will now commence its investigation.
It is not clear why the firm did not comply with the request, or contact the SLCC to discuss it. This failure to engage with the SLCC resulted in a court action being raised and the solicitor having to pay expenses. It has also significantly delayed the investigation into the complaint, which is detrimental to both parties.
The SLCC has raised court proceedings against a number of firms who have ignored their statutory duty to deliver files on request to the SLCC.
Neil Stevenson, Chief Executive commented, “Our aim in raising these proceedings is to secure the files we need to investigate complaints brought to us. However, it is clearly unsatisfactory that a significant number of firms continue to ignore statutory requests which they are legally obliged to meet. This has left us with no option but to seek the court’s support in securing those files.
“This situation is clearly not in anyone’s interests – not the complainer who raised the issue, nor the lawyer who has a complaint hanging over them for longer than necessary. And certainly not the wider legal profession who fund our work, given the legal costs and staff time required to secure these files to which we have a statutory right.
“We continue to call on the regulators of the profession to do more to encourage compliance. However, cases like this also highlight there may be a positive role for representative bodies to look at what they can do to support their members. It’s well recognised a difficult file is sometimes the one that we never get to, if we are struggling. Representative bodies may be able to support members at an earlier point, and help avoid issues escalating to court and the costs that means for a practitioner.
“The SLCC also hugely values the work of the charity LawCare, and would encourage any practitioner who perhaps realises themselves they are struggling to face dealing with a complaint, to seek help from this completely confidential service”.