On April the 7th the LSRA published its first complaints report for 2021 which shows it received 805 complaints in a six month period, demonstrating a 33% increase on the previous period.
The report, entitled Independent Complaints Handling, gives details around the LSRA’s investigative activities in the reporting period of 7 September 2020 to 26 March 2021. The report includes data on the number and nature of the complaints, as well as for the first time including details of the LSRA’s handling of 44 complaints about online advertising by solicitors, which it took over in December 2020.
Data collected within the report included:
- The LSRA’s Complaints and Resolutions Unit received a total of 805 complaints in the reporting period, up 33% from the previous six month reporting period (when complaints totalled 605).
- A total of 783 complaints related to solicitors and 22 related to barristers, reflecting the higher number of solicitors and their greater level of contact with consumers.
- A total of 462 complaints (57%) alleged misconduct, with 291 (36%) complaints about alleged inadequate legal services and a further 52 (7%) relating to alleged excessive costs (overcharging).
- The main areas of legal services that attracted complaints were wills and probate, litigation, family law and conveyancing.
As a result of these complaints
- A total of 294 complaints were closed during the reporting period, including 104 complaints determined as inadmissible.
- A total of 91 complaints were resolved with the assistance of the LSRA.
- The LSRA made determinations in six complaints. Of these, five were complaints about inadequate legal services and one related to excessive costs. In these six cases, which related to legal services provided by solicitors, the LSRA considered that the legal services were inadequate or the costs excessive and upheld the complaints.
This is the first LSRA complaints report to include details of determinations of the Complaints Committee, which is independent from the LSRA in its decision-making.
- A total of 31 complaints about solicitors were investigated by the independent Complaints Committee which was set up in November 2020 to hear misconduct complaints. Of these, the Complaints Committee upheld two complaints, while five were not upheld and one was withdrawn.
- Of the two misconduct complaints upheld by the Complaints Committee, one related to communications with the complainant, who was the joint owner of a property that had been sold. The Complaints Committee upheld the complaint but no directions or measures were imposed by the Committee in the case.
- The second case related to an allegation that a legal practitioner had misled his client as to the work undertaken. The solicitor was directed to make a payment to the complainant of €500 as compensation for financial or other loss suffered by the complainant.
- A total of six cases were referred by the Complaints Committee to the independent Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal (LPDT) for further investigation. A total of 16 cases currently remain under investigation by the Complaints Committee.
Complaints and concerns about advertising
On publishing the report, the LSRA’s Chief Executive Dr Brian Doherty said:
“The LSRA’s complaints and resolutions staff managed a significantly higher volume of both inquiries and complaints, with a third more complaints in comparison to the previous reporting period. The increase in the number of complaints handled and concluded is particularly notable given the challenges faced by staff, complainants and legal practitioners arising from the Covid-19 pandemic. This report contains details for the first time of complaints that have been determined to be admissible and where the LSRA has attempted to informally resolve or to mediate the issue of complaint between the legal practitioner and the complainant. It also contains details for the first time of complaints and concerns about the advertising of legal services received since the LSRA took over responsibility of this important area in December 2020. I strongly encourage all legal practitioners to review their online and other advertising to ensure that these are in line with the new Advertising Regulations 2020 I am still heartened by the engagement of both legal practitioners and complainants in efforts to resolve complaints at an early stage. I am concerned, however, by the reluctance of some legal practitioners to address concerns and complaints that are raised with them in a productive and proactive manner. In our experience to date, early and open engagement with the complaints process will always lead to a quicker and more effective resolution of the matter at hand.”