SLCC back in court with solicitor weeks after previous contempt case
The SLCC has today lodged a petition, against a solicitor the court has already found in contempt of court earlier this year, for again failing to provide a file to the SLCC.
In May the SLCC published the outcome of a case where a solicitor was found in contempt of court for failing to provide a file to the SLCC. The SLCC is still trying to recover costs for this case, with the wider profession currently having had to foot the bill. The court did not impose a sanction for the contempt.
The Law Society of Scotland was informed of the initial failure, and then informed again when the contempt finding was made.
However, the process only deals with a single case. There is now a new complaint where access to a different client file is needed and despite the previous contempt finding, the solicitor has not provided this file within the statutory deadlines. The SLCC is therefore left with no choice but to return to the courts to try to get access to this file so it can carried out its statutory functions.
Neil Stevenson, Chief Executive said, “This is an expensive merry-go-round to be stuck on. We have a statutory duty to investigate complaints and cannot simply tell complainers we can’t take action because the lawyer isn’t responding, especially when communication failures are one of the biggest reasons clients contact us in the first place”.
“Here we thought a contempt finding from the court, even with the court’s decision not to sanction the solicitor in any way, might be enough to send a message that this solicitor needed to comply with their statutory obligations without the excessive cost of a Court of Session process. This has not proved the case.”
“The profession and public are being let down by a system which is failing to tackle what is a longstanding and widespread culture where solicitors are failing to respond to their clients and in their statutory duty to respond to the SLCC. It creates huge cost the profession must bear, significant delays, and reputational harm.”
“The SLCC continues to share these stories not to castigate all lawyers but to try to stimulate a dialogue on how compliance may be improved which seems to be missing from the sector. Solicitor groups and bodies should have an interest in how to tackle this. There may be opportunities for supportive groups to offer moral support, health support, education, or guidance that can help colleagues deal with these situations. Earlier and more proportionate interventions may stimulate better behaviours saving cost and upset in the long run.”
“What can’t continue is a situation where a significant number of the profession each year choose to ignore the law, and where that goes untackled. The SLCC will continue to pursue all options to get a system in place that works and which reduces cost for the profession at large. This issue is part of what has informed our position on the new bill under discussion in parliament. However, we continue to encourage the sector to take ownership of this issue.”