Solicitors are no different from any other profession – most are good, whilst a few are bad. The vast majority of legal professionals in this country perform their jobs competently – and many solicitors are true experts. There is, however, a very small number of solicitors who do take on cases which are beyond their capabilities and sometimes they get involved in areas of law in which they are inexperienced. Furthermore, even the best and most diligent solicitors are not immune to human error.
Back in the 1960s or 1970s, solicitors were hardly ever taken to court over their mistakes. Thankfully, the world has now moved on, and if you find that your particular solicitor’s work has not come up to the reasonable standards expected from legal professionals and you have suffered a financial loss, you’re well within your rights to sue and you could be entitled to compensation.
Unlike most other professions, there are a number of safeguards in place to protect you should you be unfortunate enough to encounter one of the rogues!
The Solicitors Code of Conduct
All solicitors are bound by a very strict code of conduct, which is regularly updated and rigorously enforced by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. This sets out the ethical standards which should govern all aspects of the solicitors’ practice, eg always acting in the client’s best interests, refusing to act where there is a conflict of interest, and not doing anything to bring the profession into disrepute.
These aren’t abstract ideals – they’re the basis for compensation claims in cases of poor service or negligence.
The difference between poor service and professional negligence
It’s important to recognise that poor service and negligence are two very different things. Poor service is a problem with your experience as a client, and as such, can only be addressed by the professional body.
Negligence is quite different and far more serious – it is a serious failure of professional duty that has a direct and detrimental effect on you as a private citizen leading to a financial loss eg, if a solicitor fails to submit your claim in time and entirely lose your right to the compensation you deserve.
Professional negligence of this nature can be pursued through the courts – see below.
Complaints procedure and the Ombudsman
If you feel you’ve received poor service from your solicitor [as distinct from losing out through professional negligence], your first course of action should be to put your complaint in writing to them. All solicitors’ firms should have internal complaints procedures, and most will be able to resolve your complaint without the need to take the matter any further. However, if the solicitor cannot resolve your complaint, you might consider taking your case to the Legal Ombudsman (the LeO) – which is a free, independent and impartial scheme set up to help resolve legal service disputes.
Please note that there are time limits with regard to making a complaint to the Ombudsman. The LeO does expect complaints to be made to them within six years from the date of poor service, or three years from when you should have known about the complaint. Furthermore, the Ombudsman will normally only look at any complaint against a solicitor, if you have already exhausted the internal complaints procedure in the last six months.
You can contact the Legal Ombudsman as follows:
Phone: 0300 555 0333
The most common reasons for suing your solicitor
So what are the most common areas of law which result in professional negligence claims against law firms?
- Business transactions
Common negligence claims involve solicitors failing to make sure that there are appropriate indemnities and warranties in business sale and share sale agreements.
- Divorce and Family Law
Common errors made by solicitors include wrong advice on financial settlements, inadequate pension valuation and mistakes in dealing with pension sharing arrangements
- Employment contracts
a common cause of suing a solicitor arises out of mistakes made when drafting contracts of employment – including the failure to include confidentiality clauses and appropriate and enforceable restrictive covenants
Professional negligence claims against solicitors often arise following a failure to comply with Court Orders or issue court proceedings in time; along with inadequate or incorrect advice on costs issues and the merits of a case generally
- Personal Injury Compensation Claims
Claims for professional negligence against solicitors after an accident claim are on the rise. Part of the reason for this seems to be that some of the larger claims companies are using junior staff to manage the claim, with limited supervision from experienced solicitors. Due to the juniors’ lack of experience, it seems that with increasing frequency they are under-settling claims, or recommending that a client accepts an offer for compensation which is a lot less than the sum which might be expected given the injury.
Other professional negligence claims in personal injury cases centre on missed deadlines. The solicitor either doesn’t make the claim within the legal period and the client loses out on compensation completely, or the solicitor fails to stick to court deadlines, which are increasingly tight.
Errors made with managing the estate of someone who has died include general mistakes in the administration, mishandling tax affairs or failing to list all of the assets. All of these can lead to professional negligence claims.
- Property Law
The most common area of the law which results in a claim for professional negligence is conveyancing – or the buying and selling of residential property. Given that the average house in England or Wales is worth close to £200k, the potential for serious financial losses is very high. Some of the most common conveyancing mistakes include failing to spot mistakes in the title deeds; failing to give clients the full story about planning restrictions or rights of way on the property and failing to register any freehold or leasehold interest at H M Land Registry.
Apart from buying a house, one of the most common things we ask a solicitor to do is draw up a will for us. Negligent solicitors sadly often make mistakes when it comes to the topic of wills. Some of the most common mistakes can be pretty basic – as simple as not reflecting the testator’s wishes when drafting the will, or making mistakes with the signing and witnessing of the will.
Suing your solicitor – the need for specialist legal advice
Whatever the circumstances of the error made by your solicitor, it’s vitally important that you work with a specialist professional negligence solicitor to make your claim for compensation.
Professional negligence in the legal profession is a complex area of the law and there are not many solicitors who are true experts in this field. It might be difficult to find a local solicitor who has a proven track record of managing this sort of case successfully, and if that is the case, it’s always better to work with an expert who is based further afield.
Begin your search by looking for solicitors who specialise in professional negligence and the legal profession and check whether they are members of the Professional Negligence Lawyers Association (PNLA). This is the only organisation for Negligence Lawyers in England and Wales.
Alternatively – simply give us a ring. Needless to say we are PNLA members and our specialist team have many years of experience in recovering compensation from negligence solicitors.
Funding your professional negligence claim
Our solicitors will discuss with you the different funding options:
- Paying privately
- No win no fee schemes (also called conditional fee arrangements)
No win no fee schemes are pretty self explanatory – if you lose your case you don’t have to pay any legal costs. If you win your no win no fee professional negligence claim, the losing side pays your legal costs. Due to the potential expense of suing your solicitor, most of the professional negligence claims we take on our under no win no fee arrangements.
- Legal expenses insurance
We can discuss with you availability of any legal expenses insurance cover you may have to pay your costs. You may be surprised to find how many people actually have legal expense insurance to cover these kind of claims.
Will my solicitor be able to pay any compensation I’m awarded?
When suing your solicitor you should be aware that each and every law firm in England and Wales is obliged to have a comprehensive insurance policy that covers their professional practice. This compulsory insurance policy covers an absolute minimum of £2,000,000 – and many firms have much higher insurance cover.
How to pursue a claim for professional negligence
If you feel you have a claim for professional negligence against a solicitor, you must take specialist legal advice from a firm who handle this sort of litigation. Remember there is a time limit for bringing actions of this sort, so you need to act as quickly as possible.
Time Limits for Suing Your Solicitor
In general terms, you have six years from the date of the negligent act, or the date from which your financial loss started, to start your claim. Claims against after this six-year period may have still be possible. Regardless of the time limit, claims are often significantly easier to prove while they are still relatively recent.
So don’t delay – get the right specialist advice as soon as possible..
Thinking of Suing Your Solicitor? Call Us Now
Negligent legal work can have very serious financial consequences. If you have been the victim of legal negligence and you are considering suing negligent solicitors, you’re going to need the help of professional negligence claim specialists.
Our team specializes in suing negligent solicitors – contact us for a review of your potential claim today. For a FREE Initial phone consultation;
- call us now on FREEPHONE 0800 1404544 or
- use the email contact form below:
Comments or questions are welcome.