Handling Complaints

The information on this page is for people who have made a complaint which has been referred to one of the professional organisations.  If you are a practitioner and the complaint was about you, please see the Handling Complaint information on this page.

What we do

The SLCC investigates complaints about the way a professional organisation, such as the Law Society of Scotland or the Faculty of Advocates, has dealt with a complaint about a solicitor or advocate's conduct. The SLCC will decide whether the professional organisation has given each complaint proper attention, if it has taken appropriate action on the basis of a fair and thorough examination of all the evidence, and if it has investigated reasonably, impartially and effectively.

If the professional organisation has failed to start or has not yet completed an investigation, the SLCC may prepare a report on the investigation if it thinks that its involvement is justified. However, normally we will not intervene if a conduct complaint is still being investigated by the professional organisation.

What we do not do

The SLCC cannot investigate your original complaint about the solicitor or advocate's conduct. You cannot appeal to the SLCC against the professional organisation's decision and we cannot overturn or alter the decision.

If you are appealing a decision made by the Law Society of Scotland, there is guidance available on the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal (SSDT) website: http://www.ssdt.org.uk/guidance/.

How and when to complain to the SLCC and the information we need

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 madewithin 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 SLCCcannotcarry 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.  If the SLCC decides that is the case, the parties involved in the on-going investigation will be notified.

Handling complaints must be made on one of the SLCC's Handling Complaint forms. There is guidance attached to the form to assist in completing the relevant information. If this is difficult for you, please phone us or call in and we will assist you in completing the form.

You should keep records and receipts of any costs incurred in making the handling complaint, as these may be required.

You can download a  Handling Complaint Form (Microsoft Word format, 108 KB) or you can ask us to send you a form by telephoning 0131 201 2130, sending a fax to 0131 201 2131, emailing enquiries@scottishlegalcomplaints.org.uk or by writing to the SLCC at The Stamp Office, 10-14 Waterloo Place, Edinburgh EH1 3EG.  

 

What happens when we receive your Handling Complaint Form?

Firstly, we will let you know if your handling complaint is one the SLCC can investigate. If it is, we will advise you, in brief terms, of the types of issues you have asked the SLCC to look into. The SLCC will write to the professional organisation requesting its file and asking for any comments. The SLCC will also send a copy of your complaint form to the practitioner who you originally complained about.

Our investigation into your handling complaint will be based around the professional organisation's complaint file, the information provided in the complaint form and any response that we might receive from the solicitor or advocate. The SLCC can ask for more information from you, the practitioner, or the professional organisation if needed.

The SLCC will report on the way the professional organisation handled the investigation, and whether it looked into the conduct complaint properly. If the SLCC does not think that the investigation was satisfactory, it will generally make one or more of the recommendations described below. The format of our report will vary and may, where appropriate, take the form of a letter. 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.

The SLCC 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 e.g. if the professional organisation’s decision is being appealed.

What we can recommend

If the SLCC upholds your handling complaint, it 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.

Does the Professional Organisation have to follow the SLCC's recommendations?

The professional organisation has 14 days to advise the SLCC and the parties whether it intends to accept the SLCC's 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, the SLCC can direct the professional organisation to comply.

Who is given a copy of the SLCC's report?

The report is sent directly to you, to the practitioner and to the professional organisation.

How long does the SLCC's 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 complain to the SLCC?

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)