How to complain about a solicitor (Scotland)

The Law Society of Scotland is responsible for setting standards for Scottish solicitors and for regulating them.

Standards may be divided broadly into standards of service and standards of conduct, though a standard may contain an element of both.

There is more information in the Commons Library briefing, Complaints against solicitors and other lawyers.

Summary

Standards of service refer to the quality of service a client can expect from a firm of solicitors or an individual solicitor.

Standards of conduct refer to the behaviour of an individual solicitor.

A summary of standards is available at the Law Society of Scotland web page, Standards for solicitors.

The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission deals with service complaints.

The Law Society of Scotland deals with complaints about conduct.

In the first instance, a constituent should make his or her complaint to the solicitor in question. If this is unsuccessful, the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) is the first point of contact for all complaints about solicitors in Scotland. The SLCC decides on the nature of the complaint and refers it to the Law Society of Scotland if it concerns conduct.

Complain to the solicitor

A constituent must raise his or her complaint with the solicitor first. Firms of solicitors will usually have a client relations manager to deal with complaints. The firm should be able to give details of who this is. Alternatively, the Law Society’s Public Communications team, on 0131 226 7411, can provide that information.

The solicitor must be given time to respond to the complaint, usually 28 days.

Scottish Legal Complaints Commission

The SLCC is an independent body. Its Board is appointed by Scottish Ministers in consultation with the Lord President of the Court of Session. The service it provides is free of charge.

The SLCC is the gateway for all complaints about a solicitor, but it will not take up a case unless a constituent has made his or her complaint to the solicitor in question already, and the complaint remains unresolved. The SLCC will ask for copies of the original complaint, and the solicitor’s response.

A formal complaint may then be made to the SLCC, whatever the nature of the complaint. It must be made on a specified complaint form, and this must be signed.

There are strict time limits within which a complaint must be made (unless there are exceptional circumstances). These time limits changed on 1 April 2017. The rules are complicated and are set out at the SLCC web page, Time limits.

The SLCC provides advice about how to make a complaint and may be contacted on 0131 201 2130 or email enquiries@scottishlegalcomplaints.org.uk.

After a complaint form is received, the SLCC follows a structured process which it describes at its web page, Our process.  

If a complaint is considered eligible, it is broadly categorised as relating to:

  • service only
  • conduct only
  • both service and conduct

In all cases, both the complainer and the solicitor are informed that it has been accepted, and who will investigate:

  • If the complaint is about service only, the SLCC looks into it further. Mediation is offered at this stage, and is free of charge.
  • If about conduct only, the complaint is referred to the Law Society of Scotland. The SLCC’s involvement ends at this stage.
  • If about both service and conduct, a “hybrid complaint”, the parties are informed which of the SLCC and the Law Society of Scotland will investigate first.

The SLCC process can then involve mediation, investigation and determination, and there is an appeals process. The SLCC web page, Our process provides more information. 

If a complaint is upheld

If the SLCC upholds a complaint, it may take whatever steps it considers fair and reasonable including:

  • asking the solicitor to adjust his or her fees
  • asking the solicitor to re-do work
  • directing the solicitor to take other specified action
  • directing the solicitor to pay compensation (of not more than £20,000) where someone has been affected
  • reporting the solicitor to the relevant professional body, that is the Law Society of Scotland, if there is a competence or conduct issue

There is more information at the links below.

Scottish Legal Complaints Commission web page, Start your complaint.

Scottish Legal Complaints Commission web page, Our process

Law Society of Scotland

The SLCC refers complaints about conduct to the Law Society of Scotland.

The Law Society of Scotland’s process involves four stages: assessment, investigation, written report and decision.

There are three possible outcomes:

  • no action to be taken
  • unsatisfactory professional conduct
  • professional misconduct

For more serious cases of professional misconduct, the Law Society of Scotland can prosecute the solicitor before the Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal, an independent tribunal.

In some cases, both the complainer and the solicitor can appeal the outcome of a conduct complaint to the Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal.

There is more detailed information, including information about timescales and disclosure of information, possible sanctions for unsatisfactory professional conduct, and contact information at this web page:

Law Society of Scotland, How we investigate conduct complaints.

England and Wales

There is a separate Constituency Casework page, How to complain about a solicitor (England and Wales).

Northern Ireland

Information about the process in Northern Ireland is provided in section 3 of the Commons Library briefing, Complaints against solicitors and other lawyers.

Further reading

Commons Library briefing, Complaints against solicitors and other lawyers.