How many complaints did we receive and how many complaints did we close?
|Complaints still open from previous year||388||436|
|New complaints received||1159||1054|
|Complaints closed at all stages||1158||1186|
|Complaints open at end of year||459||388|
*There are some complaints that may be opened or closed for other reasons, this is why the numbers here to do not reconcile completely.
What process stage were complaints closed at?
|Eligibility (including accepted conduct)||646||545|
Who were the complains about?
Solicitors or firms of solicitors
- 1146 complaints we received were about solicitors or firms of solicitors (1033 in 2020/21)
- 492 complaints we accepted for investigation were about solicitors or firms of solicitors (437 in 2020/21)
- 517 complaints we did not accept for investigation (including at prematurity stage) were about solicitors or firms of solicitors (645 in 2020/21)
- 12 complaints we received were about advocates (21 in 2020/21)
- 5 complaints we accepted for investigation were about advocates (6 in 2020/21)
- 11 complaints we did not accept for investigation (including at prematurity stage) were about advocates (14 in 2020/21)
There were no complaints against commercial attorneys (members of the Association of Commercial Attorneys).
Outcomes at eligibility stage
Once a complaint has been made to us, we will then assess whether or not it is a complaint that we can accept for further investigation. We may also be able to negotiate a settlement between the complainer and the lawyer or firm before a formal decision to accept or reject – if the complaint doesn’t raise serious conduct issues.
|Complaints accepted for investigation||496||443|
|Complaints rejected for investigation||222||180|
|Complaints resolved before a decision to accept/reject||252||236|
|Complaints withdrawn or discontinued before a decision to accept/reject||54||47|
(FVTWM stands for ‘frivolous, vexatious or totally without merit’).
What kind of complaints did we accept for investigation?
|Service complaints accepted for an investigation by the SLCC||324||271|
|Conduct complaints accepted for an investigation by the Law Society of Scotland or the Faculty of Advocates||113||93|
|Hybrid complaints where the service parts are investigated by the SLCC. The conduct parts are investigated by the Law Society of Scotland or the Faculty of Advocates||59||79|
What formal, appealable decisions to reject complaints for investigation did we make?
|The whole complaint was made after the time limit||21||26|
|The whole complaint was ‘frivolous, vexatious or totally without merit’||146||118|
|Some parts were after the time limit. The rest were ‘frivolous, vexatious or totally without merit’||8||8|
|The complaint wasn’t about a regulated legal practitioner in Scotland||45||28|
What complaints were closed before a decision to accept or reject?
|Resolved (see below for details)||252||236|
|Withdrawn (see below for details)||33||25|
|Discontinued (see below for details)||21||22|
What these terms mean:
Resolved: The complainer requested or agreed to the closure of complaint as a result of action taken by lawyer/firm. OR the complainer accepted our initial view is that complaint is time-barred or incapable of being upheld (based on merits), or failed to responded to the initial view.
Withdrawn: The complainer requested closure of their complaint for unknown reasons, or reasons not related to action taken by lawyer/firm.
Discontinued: The complainer has not responded to request for further information about their complaint, despite a reminder and a warning their complaint will be closed.
Outcomes of accepted service complaints
How many complaints were settled at the mediation stage?
Before we start investigating a service complaint, we give the complainer and the lawyer or firm an opportunity to attend a mediation meeting, led by an independent external mediator.
|Both sides agreed a settlement at a meeting with the help of an independent mediator||67||66|
|Both sides agreed a settlement with the help of the SLCC’s mediation co-ordinator||11||16|
A further 2 complaints were closed at mediation stage.
How successful were mediations?
|Both sides agreed to a mediation meeting||40%||30%|
|The mediation meeting was successful||76%||75%|
How were complaints settled at the investigation stage?
At investigation stage, an SLCC investigator will work with both parties to agree a settlement to the complaint.
This can be the settlement recommended by the investigator in a detailed investigation report, for example, to uphold the complaint, to pay compensation or refund fees, or a recommendation to not uphold the complaint and take no action.
The investigator can also help agree a settlement before they’ve written the report.
Other times, a settlement is agreed after the investigation, but on different terms to the investigation report.
|Settlement agreed before the investigation report||44||71|
|Settled as recommended by investigation report||48||81|
|Settlement agreed after the investigation report on different terms||16||33|
|Withdrawn by complainer or discontinued by the SLCC due to lack of contact from the complainer||29||39|
How were complaints decided on at the determination stage?
If one or both of the parties don’t agree to the investigation report, the complaint will be passed to a determination committee. This is a committee of three of our Commissioners, which looks at the complaint and makes a binding decision on whether it should be upheld as inadequate professional service.
|Whole complaint was upheld by the determination committee||17||10|
|Parts of the complaint were upheld by the determination committee||49||47|
|None of the complaint was upheld by the determination committee||67||77|
What were the outcomes of appeals against the SLCC’s decisions at the eligibility and determination stages?
Decisions to accept or reject complaints at eligibility and determination committee decisions are appealable to the Court of Session.
|In progress at the start of the year||5||2||7|
Other types of complaints
What happened with handling complaints about the professional bodies?
We also receive complaints about the way the professional bodies carry out conduct investigations.
|Outcome||Law Society of Scotland||Faculty of Advocates||Total|
|In progress at the start of the year||3||0||3|
|Rejected - with reason||2||0||2|
|Accepted for investigation||6||0||6|
|Closed on report||8||0||8|
|In progress at the end of the year||1||0||1|
Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman complaints
15 years after the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman was disbanded and its powers were transferred to us, we were still able to receive complaints under its powers. We received the last eligible complaint this year, which was closed by the end of the year.
What were the outcomes of complaints about our service?
We received 29 complaints about the way we’d handled a complaint made to us. These ‘service delivery complaints’ are dealt with by a manager who has not been involved with the case. If these aren’t resolved, or the person complaining isn’t happy with the response at ‘stage 1’, they are escalated to a senior manager for ‘stage 2’.
Service delivery complaint outcomes
|Outcomes||Stage 1||Stage 2|
Freedom of Information and data protection
How did the SLCC deal with Freedom of Information enquiries made?
We are a public authority under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act. We received 21 requests for information during our year.
Requests and responses
|Requests received in year||21|
|Requests responded to on time in year||21|
Requests dealt with in year
|Withdrawn by requester||0|
|Disclosed all information||6|
|No information disclosed||2|
|Disclosed some information||8|
|Refused to confirm or deny whether the information was held||2|
|We didn’t hold the information||3|
Exemptions used in year
|Exemption||Number of times used|
|The information was otherwise accessible||1|
|Disclosure prohibited under another enactment (e.g. section 43 of our legislation)||1|
|Substantial prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs||2|
|Actionable breach of confidence||1|
|Third party personal data||2|
Reviews of our responses to Freedom of Information requests
- There were 2 FOISA reviews.
- 2 were wholly/partially upheld.
We received 27 Subject Access Requests.