Frequently Asked Questions
Below is a list of frequently asked questions about the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission; how complaints are handled; and what you can do if you are not satisfied with how your complaint has been handled.
The following FAQs relate to the complaints handling process, how to complain and what to do when your complaint has reached its conclusion.
General FAQs about the SLCC.
Yes. For service/conduct complaints, there is a requirement to have made the substance of your complaint known to the practitioner or the firm, allowing them a reasonable opportunity (usually 4 weeks) to resolve the complaint first. More information on how to do this available in our advice and information pages. It is always helpful to keep copies of any letters of complaint and any responses you may have received from the practitioner/firm and submit these with your complaint form.
Initially, the SLCC requires a completed complaint form from you. There are two forms
- one for service/conduct complaints and
- one for 'handling' complaints
It is also very helpful to provide us with a copy of any letter of complaint and response from the practitioner or firm. If you require any assistance in completing a complaint form, or have any questions about the form, please contact us on 0131 201 2130.
Service Complaints are about the quality of work which a
practitioner has carried out (or which you think should have been
carried out) during a transaction.
Conduct Complaints are about a particular practitioner's
Some complaints can contain elements of both service and
This is about the way the relevant professional
organisation has dealt with the investigation of a complaint about
a practitioner's conduct. If you are not happy with how the
investigation into your complaint has been carried out, you can
make a handling complaint to us and you can read more about this here.
All complaints should be brought as soon as possible; however, there are strict time limits which apply:
The SLCC operates strict time limits for accepting complaints.
More information about our time limits is available on our time limits page.
Once the professional organisation has made a decision about whether or not the conduct complaint should be upheld, a letter is sent to the parties advising of the decision. Handling complaints must be made within six months of the date of that final decision letter. The complaint cannot be accepted if the six months have expired. There is no exception to this.
If the conduct complaint is still in the process of being investigated by the professional organisation, the SLCC must not carry out a handling investigation unless the professional organisation has unreasonably failed to start to investigate or has started to investigate, but has failed to complete it within a reasonable time.
More information about our time limits is available on our advice and information pages.
Complaints about inadequate professional service cannot be accepted if the alleged inadequate professional service pre-dates January 1989. The Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1988 which introduced the statutory concept of inadequate professional service, did not have retrospective effect and was not applied to complaints relating to events that occurred prior to its commencement in January 1989. There is no provision in The Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007 (“2007 Act”), to enable the SLCC to extend the concept of inadequate professional service back beyond the commencement of the 1988 Act in January 1989. It would be necessary for the 2007 Act to make express provision for such retrospective effect in order to overcome the strong common law presumption that professional persons should not be subjected to disciplinary sanctions in respect of conduct that did not constitute a disciplinary offence at the time that it occurred. There are no such express provisions in the 2007 Act.
Yes. In some cases there may be difficulties in tracing
the files or the practitioner, but each case is investigated on its
own merits and we will advise you openly of any difficulties we
The SLCC does not enquire into complaints made about Judges, Sheriffs, the Scottish Legal Aid Board, the Scottish Courts Service, Scottish Police Service or Scottish Prison Service. There are also certain conduct complaints about a practitioner acting in a judicial capacity that we are unable to accept for investigation. This is covered by section 2 (3) of the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) 2007 Act. An example of this would be where a legal practitioner is sitting as a part-time sheriff or tribunal chair.
If your complaint is about a legal practitioner who has been appointed by a judge or sheriff to prepare a report or opinion, such as a child welfare reporter, we may be able to investigate it. See this FAQ for more information.
If we cannot deal with your complaint we will provide you with the reasons for our decision. Where possible, we will also try and direct you to the relevant organisation where you should make your complaint.
We aim to contact you within 28 days of receiving your complaint form. We will then let you know if we need any more information from you at that point and tell you what the next steps are – which will include agreeing a summary of the main issues of your complaint and then advising you in writing whether we can look into your complaint further. The SLCC is keen to resolve complaints promptly and hopes that local resolution and mediation can be used. If your complaint is purely about the service received from a legal practitioner, the Mediation Co-ordinator will contact both parties to see if they would like to try this approach. If Mediation is not appropriate, your complaint will be passed to one of our Case Investigators who will carry out an investigation of your complaint.
We will always advise you on the progress of your complaint at appropriate points, and when we make a final decision which is called a determination.
Where initial steps to resolve complaints have not been
successful, the complaint is investigated by a Case Investigator
who contacts both parties, makes relevant enquiries and analyses
the evidence relating to the complaint. At the conclusion of the
investigation, the investigator produces an investigation report.
The investigation report will include a proposed settlement. If
both parties accept the proposal, the complaint will be concluded
at that stage.
As an independent and impartial body, we have to investigate complaints very thoroughly, taking time to gather evidence and ensure that each case receives the consideration which it deserves. We are committed to working through cases as quickly as we can, but legal complaints are often extremely complicated and demand close and diligent investigation, especially since questions of redress and professional reputation are involved.
How long your complaint takes can vary.
Where a complaint is not resolved earlier in the process and goes through to determination, it can take up to 16 months, although some complaints may take more or less time. An example of this is set out in the table below.
We strongly encourage parties to try to reach a resolution as soon as possible, without the need for a formal decision. Although we understand that is not always possible you will see that this is something that is offered and encouraged at every stage of our process.
Please remember that conduct complaints are considered by the relevant professional organisations (RPOs). RPOs have their own processes and set their own timescales.
Estimated average time per stage of the process:
We will carry out some basic checks to make sure your complaint form is completed in full and also make sure that you have included all the paperwork you have referred to. We will also check that you have already made your complaint to the lawyer or firm and given them a chance to respond.
At all stages of our process if we see an opportunity for an early informal resolution, we will contact you to see if you’d consider that.
Pre - eligibility
You complaint will be held in a queue until a Case Investigator is available to start the eligibility assessment. While there will be a wait at this stage, your case will usually proceed without delay after that. To ensure that happens, you will be asked to keep to various time scales in each stage of the process after this.
We will assess your complaint to decide if it is eligible to be admitted to the complaint process.
If your complaint is suitable for mediation, this will be offered to you.
If your complaint does not resolve at the mediation stage, or if you are not offered mediation, your complaint will be allocated to a Case Investigator who will carry out an investigation and a recommendation will be made.
If one party or both parties do not accept the recommendation, the complaint is referred for determination. At this stage, a committee of our Board Members makes a formal decision about your complaint.
EXAMPLE TOTAL TIME
No. The SLCC does not charge a fee for investigating a
complaint. We are funded by a levy on the legal profession.
If we uphold your service complaint, we can take whatever steps we consider fair and reasonable.
- ask the practitioner to adjust his fees;
- ask the practitioner to re-do work;
- direct the practitioner to take other action we specify;
- direct the practitioner to pay compensation where someone has been affected;
- report the practitioner to the relevant professional body if there is a competence or conduct issue
Detailed information about what we can decide to do is available in our Settlements and Disposals Policy.
Yes. The decision will be sent directly to you and to the
practitioner (or the firm of practitioners) you complained about.
If the complaint is about both service and conduct, the decision
will also be sent to the professional organisation.
If the investigator recommends the complaint be upheld and the
proposed settlement is not acceptable to you, the SLCC will make a
formal determination (decision). The SLCC Commissioners will
do this at a Determination Committee.
If you disagree with the decision made about a complaint, you
have a right of appeal to the Court of Session under Section 21 of
The Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007.
If you wish to appeal you must not delay, as an appeal must
normally be made within 28 days of the SLCC's decision. You may
wish to seek independent legal advice about lodging an appeal as we
are unable to provide you with detailed advice on this.
It would be helpful if you could contact us to let us know that
you have lodged, or intend to lodge, an appeal and let us know who
your legal advisors are.
There is no provision in the 2007 Act to appeal a handling
The office of the SLSO ceased to exist from 1st October 2008.
However, as part of the transition process, the SLCC still
investigates handling complaints about conduct and service which
relate to issues or instructions given before 1st October 2008 and
this is under the powers of the Scottish Legal Services
Yes, under the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007, any person can make a complaint about the conduct of a legal practitioner. If you wish to complain about the service of a legal practitioner, where you are not the client, the SLCC will regard this as a third party service complaint. These can be made by any person who appears to have been directly affected by the suggested inadequate professional services to the practitioner's own client.
Yes. The SLCC is keen to provide as professional and helpful a
service as possible. If you are unhappy with the service you
receive from the SLCC you should contact us. A manager will contact
you and will look into your complaint.
For further information on this, please see the separate
guidance, "Unhappy with our
If you are unhappy with the amount of fee charged, but satisfied
with the quality of service, you should do the following:
- Refer to the Terms of Business/Engagement letter your solicitor
should have sent to you when you instructed them. This letter
should set out how the solicitor/firm propose to charge you for the
work carried out e.g. an agreed fee or an hourly rate.
- Speak to your solicitor about it first. They may be able to go
through the bill with you and explain how the fee was calculated.
If you are still not happy, you should direct your concerns to the
Client Relations Partner of the firm.
- If there is still no agreement, you can opt to have your file
audited by the Auditor of Court; this process is called Taxation.
The Auditor will look at your file independently and decide whether
or not the fee you have been charged is fair and reasonable. The
Auditor has the discretion to lower the fee note to what they deem
to be a fair and reasonable amount. As well as having the
discretion to lower the fee note, the Auditor can also raise the
fee note to a higher amount than what the solicitor has
Yes. There is a section in our complaint form which you and the
person on whose behalf you are making the complaint, should
complete and sign. Please note that we may contact that person to
get their agreement to pursue the complaint.
Yes. As professional organisations, the Law Society of Scotland
and Faculty of Advocates have a role in the regulation of
their members. We refer complaints about the conduct of legal
practitioners to them in the first instance. The SLCC's role here
is where an individual is unhappy about the way in which the
professional organisation has dealt with their conduct complaint.
We also monitor how the professional organisations deal with
conduct complaints as part of our oversight role.
Yes. Section 4(4) of the Legal Profession and Legal Aid
(Scotland) Act 2007, provides that the SLCC should not take any
action on a complaint where the practitioner concerned has not been
given a reasonable opportunity to deal with it themselves.
This includes a complaint against a solicitor who did not act for
you, what we call a third-party complaint.
Once you have made the complaint to the third party solicitor,
they may respond to your complaint through your own solicitor (if
you have one), or to you directly, depending on what is appropriate
in the circumstances. Third party complaints are complex as
the solicitor has a duty of confidentiality to their own client,
which may restrict their ability to respond.
If the SLCC finds that the professional organisation has failed
to handle the complaint properly, we can recommend that the
- provide you with more information;
- exercise their powers in relation to
- investigate the complaint further;
- reconsider their decision;
- pay a modest amount of compensation for
inconvenience loss or distress caused to you by poor complaint
Where the SLCC upholds your complaint, we may recommend
reimbursement of part or all of your costs in making your complaint
to us. You should let the SLCC know if you have incurred any
costs beyond the costs of stationery and postage.
The professional organisation has three months to advise the
SLCC and the parties in the handling complaint, what action it has
taken to comply with the SLCC's recommendations, or its decision
not to comply.
The SLCC can direct the professional organisation to comply if
it considers it appropriate to do so. If a direction is necessary,
this will be decided by one of the SLCC's Determination
Committees. The parties will be notified of any direction made by
If you’re concerned about the way in which a reporter has conducted him/herself and want to make a complaint to the SLCC, we will have to consider whether the complaint is one we can consider. As the reporter is appointed by the court there is no direct client/solicitor relationship between a reporter and a party to a case so there will not be any element of service to your complaint. It may be possible however for the SLCC to consider a complaint about the conduct of a solicitor whilst he or she was performing the role of a child welfare reporter. If the SLCC decides your complaint is an eligible conduct complaint, it will then pass the complaint to the relevant professional body for investigation.
The SLCC does not ordinarily reimburse the costs associated with instructing a professional person (such as a solicitor) to raise a complaint with the SLCC on somebody’s behalf.
There is no specific requirement for CIs to be legally qualified. We have a rigorous recruitment process which ensures that all our CIs have the skills and expertise needed to investigate complex legal complaints in a fair and independent way. Many of our CIs have a legal background while others have joined us from regulatory or complaint-handling bodies.
There is no requirement for individual CIs to disclose their qualifications to parties involved in the complaint as this is personal information.
Yes. The SLCC operates independently of the Scottish Government, Scottish Legal Profession, the Law Society of Scotland, the Faculty of Advocates and Association of Commercial Attorneys. We appreciate our position of independence is valued by our service users by providing a greater sense of impartiality and objectivity to reviewing complaints.
No. The SLCC has no authority to provide legal or procedural
advice; we can only advise on how to make a complaint against a
legal practitioner or professional organisation and on our
complaints process. We have no power to assist you in finding legal
representation or assist you in any ongoing legal proceedings.
Should you require this kind of advice you should seek your own
independent legal advice.
The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission has nine
Commissioners who fulfil their legal requirements and obligations
as outlined in the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act,
2007. In relation to complaints, the Commissioners make
determinations, or decisions in accordance with their powers
under the Act. There are some Commissioners with a legal background
and other lay Commissioners. When determining issues in their
committees, there is always a majority of lay members.
They also have a role in setting guidance for SLCC staff in
relation to the complaints processes. They are appointed for a
period of between four and five years.
You can write to us at:
Scottish Legal Complaints Commission
The Stamp Office
10 - 14 Waterloo Place
or telephone on: 0131 201 2130
or fax: 0131 201 2131
or by email at: email@example.com
If you have a question that has not been answered by one of the questions above, please contact us and we'll do our best to answer your query.