What is a handling complaint?
A handling complaint is a complaint about how a professional organisation has dealt with a conduct complaint about a solicitor or advocate.
Professional organisations include the Law Society of Scotland, Faculty of Advocates and the Association of Commercial Attorneys.
So if you are unhappy about the way one of the professional bodies has handled a conduct complaint, the information on this page will be relevant to you.
What we do
When we receive a handling complaint, we will look at the way the professional organisation has managed the complaints process.
For example, we'll look at whether they have delayed progressing it, communicated poorly with you or failed to consider all of the evidence.
What we can recommend
If we uphold your handling complaint, we can recommend that the professional organisation take any or some of the following actions:
- provide you with more information;
- investigate the conduct complaint further;
- reconsider its decision;
- exercise its powers in relation to the solicitor or advocate;
- pay compensation for loss, inconvenience or distress caused to you by the professional organisations' poor complaint handling;
- re-imburse part or all of the reasonable costs incurred in making your handling complaint to the SLCC.
What we can't do
We cannot investigate the original complaint about the solicitor or advocate's conduct and we cannot overturn or alter the decision made by the professional body.
How to make a handling complaint
We can only accept Handling complaints which are made on our Handling Complaint forms. The form comes with guidance notes but if you are having any difficulties, please get in touch with us so that we can assist you.
When to make a handling complaint
Once the professional organisation has made a decision about a conduct complaint, they will send a letter to the parties advising of the decision. Handling complaints must be made within six months of the date of that final decision letter. Otherwise the law says we cannot consider your complaint.
If the professional organisation has failed to start or has not yet completed an investigation, we may prepare a report on the investigation if we think that our involvement is justified.
However, normally we will not intervene if a conduct complaint is still being investigated by the professional organisation.
What happens when we receive your Handling Complaint Form?
Firstly, we will let you know if your handling complaint is one we can investigate. We will write to the professional organisation requesting its file and asking for any comments. We can ask for more information from any party to the complaint if needed.
We will report on the way the professional organisation handled the investigation, and whether it looked into the conduct complaint properly. If we do not think that the investigation was satisfactory, it will generally make one or more of the recommendations described below.
In some cases there will be confidential information which we cannot release as we need to respect the confidentiality between the practitioner and his/her client. You will be advised if information is being restricted.
We can also carry out a general review of the professional organisation's file as part of its oversight and monitoring functions. The result of any such review may be included in the SLCC's report.
Under certain circumstances, your handling complaint may be suspended, for example, if the professional organisation’s decision is being appealed.
Does the Professional Organisation have to follow the SLCC's recommendations?
The professional organisation has 14 days to advise us and the parties whether it intends to accept our recommendations.
Sometimes the professional organisation may need longer to confirm its position. In any event, at the end of 3 months (or such other period decided by us), the professional organisation must confirm the action/steps which it has taken to comply or why it has decided not to comply. If it does not agree with our recommendations, we can direct the professional organisation to comply.
Who is given a copy of the SLCC's report?
The report is sent directly to all parties to the complaint.
How long does the SLCC's handling investigation take?
Some investigations will take longer than others. However, we aim to complete our investigation within 16 weeks from receiving the file from the professional organisation. We will write to let you know if we are going to take longer than this.
Does it cost anything to make a handling complaint?
No. There is no charge to make a Handling Complaint.
Handling Complaints leaflet
You can read our information leaflet which explains how the SLCC deals with a Handling complaint: Handling Complaints Leaflet (PDF, 392 KB)