It is a sad fact of life that sometimes, legal professionals sometimes do not act in the way expected of them and breach the rules of conduct laid down by their industry. However, proving that your solicitor has been negligent is not always a simple process and it’s up to the individual or business owner to prove it.
Solicitors in England and Wales are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and are bound by its rules. This means they must follow the Solicitors Code of Conduct at all times when dealing with clients, courts and any third parties involved. Those in Scotland have slightly different guidelines but are still expected to offer clients a good standard of service while giving legal advice.
Examples include not bringing the legal professional into disrepute, always acting in the best interest of their clients, and being aware of conflicts of interest.
So if you have employed a solicitor and are not happy with their service, how can you tell if they have been negligent?
What to watch out for
The first thing to establish is whether your solicitor has failed to take “reasonable care” rather than simply giving you poor service when dealing with your legal matter. What this means is that you have ended up in a worse financial position then when you started or believe you have missed out financially through the actions of your solicitor. Even if they have provided poor service, you should still lodge a formal complaint with them and refer your complaint to the Legal Ombudsman as you could receive compensation for this.
It could be down to them simply not replying to your phone calls, emails or letters in a timely manner or missing a deadline leading to your claim not being processed. Another example is where you have been given incorrect advice around potential funding or have had a business document or will drafted incorrectly.
Thousands of professional negligence cases against solicitors are made every year, and the numbers are only increasing. In many cases, the courts will rule that the legal professional acted reasonably and the outcome could not have been prevented had they acted differently. The most common causes of negligence actions are missing limitation dates, under-settling a personal injury claim, suing the wrong person or party, errors when drafting wills or contracts, and conveyancing errors around planning permission.
The most important aspect in any professional negligence claim against a solicitor is establishing a breach of duty of care. You must be able to prove their actions caused you to suffer a loss.
If you’ve done this, the first course of action you should take is to contact the solicitor you believe has been negligent. You have to give them the opportunity to resolve your complaint first. If you’re not satisfied with the outcome of this then it’s time to seek legal advice to see if you have a case or not.
If you would like to talk to someone about possible negligence suffered at the hands of a solicitor, please contact us on 0800 122 3130 or online by clicking here. You can also request a call at a time convenient for you here.