Find out about costs, time limits, other types of complaints, complaining on behalf of someone else etc.
No - our service is free. We are a public body funded by a levy on the legal profession.
It varies from complaint to complaint. Legal complaints are often very complicated and our formal investigation process is thorough. Throughout this process, we will try to resolve the complaint between you and the lawyer. If this is successful, it is often a much shorter process.
Current timescales for each stage of the process are shown below.
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
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 – this often includes agreeing a summary of the main issues of your complaint.
We might help you agree a settlement with the lawyer or law firm you're complaining about. Otherwise, we will let you know you in writing if we can look into your complaint further.
We will always advise you on the status of your complaint at each stage.
Find out more about the complaints process.
If we uphold your service complaint, we can take whatever steps we consider fair and reasonable. We can:
- ask the practitioner to adjust their 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 Policy and Procedure Manual.
No - we are much less formal than a court. We won't ask you to present your 'case' in person. Normally, we'll discuss things with you over the phone and in writing and will ask you for the information we need. If you have specific communication needs or preferences, please let us know and we'll do our best to meet these.
Yes. Any decisions will be sent directly to you and to the lawyer or firm you complained about.
If you are unhappy with the fee, but satisfied with the quality of service, you should do the following:
- Look at the terms-of-business letter you will have received from your lawyer. This should have information on how the fee would be charged.
- Speak to your lawyer about this first. They may be able to explain how they calculated the fee.
- If you are still not happy you should contact the firm's Client Relations Manager.
- If there is still no agreement, you can ask to have your file audited by the Auditor of Court. This process is called taxation. The auditor can lower or raise the fee to what they consider to be fair and reasonable.
- If the fee you are asked to pay is far more than what you were told to expect, we may be able to look at your complaint.
No - we can only advise you on how to make a complaint and on our complaints process. We cannot help you to find a lawyer or help you in any legal proceedings. The Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance might be able to suggest a local advocacy organisation who can help you, or your local citizens advice bureau may be able to help.
There's no specific requirement for investigators to be legally qualified. We have a rigorous recruitment process which ensures that all our investigation staff have the skills and expertise needed to investigate complex legal complaints in a fair and independent way.
Many of investigators have a legal background while others have joined us from regulatory or complaint-handling bodies.
Staff members are not required to disclose their qualifications or background to those involved in the complaint - this is personal information.
Yes - we call this a 'third party complaint'. Anyone can complain about a lawyer's conduct. And anyone who appears to have been directly affected by a poor service provided to a client can make a complaint.
Usually, yes. We can only deal with a complaint if the lawyer has been given a reasonable opportunity to deal with it themselves. If you feel there are circumstances which mean you are unable to make a complaint direct to the lawyer, you will need to tell us about these when you send us your complaint form, so we can consider the position fully.
Yes. If you prefer, someone can complain on your behalf or help you to make a complaint. You could ask a friend, a relative or anyone else you trust. Your local citizens advice bureau can also help you make your complaint. If you have mental-health issues, you may be able to get help from an independent advocate to make a complaint. To find out about advocacy in your area, contact the Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance.
No - you don't need to pay someone to complain for you. We want to hear from you in your own words. And we'll explain anything that you're not sure about.
If you do choose to use a legal representative, bear in mind that any settlement or order we award you wouldn't usually cover your costs in getting a paid professional person (such as a solicitor) to raise the complaint on your behalf.
No - we do not normally refund the cost of instructing someone to make a
complaint to us.
You can make a complaint about our service to us. This will be investigated by one of our management team. We are committed to providing a high standard of service and we value your feedback. Find out how to make a complaint about our service.
You can appeal to the Court of Session. You must usually appeal within 28 days of our decision. Find out more about appealing a decision.
Yes. The SLCC operates independently of the Scottish Government, the Scottish legal profession, the Law Society of Scotland, the Faculty of Advocates and Association of Commercial Attorneys.
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 lawyers to them.
The SLCC's becomes involved if an individual is unhappy about the way in which the professional organisation has dealt with their conduct complaint.
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.