The Scottish government has launched its own version of the Clementi review by appointing a panel of non-lawyers and lawyers to examine the regulation of the profession, with a particular focus on unregulated providers and their impact on consumers.
Two barristers from the same chambers have between them accounted for more than one in ten of the four hundred plus new complaints made against their branch of the profession in 2015/16. The revelation came amid a crisis of public confidence in the fairness of the BSB’s complaints process.
‘Named and shamed’ barrister Tariq Rehman has come top of the latest table of complaints about lawyers published by the Legal Ombudsman. He was subject to more complaints than the combined total recorded for the country’s two largest consumer law firms, Irwin Mitchell and Slater & Gordon.
This is a “considerable failure” of the legal services market to meet the needs of small businesses, a major lobbying group has told the Competition and Markets Authority. The Federation of Small Business said the barriers small businesses face in resolving legal problems were “numerous”.
The Legal Services Board is set to instruct the frontline regulators like the Solicitors Regulation Authority and Bar Standards Board to get tough with lawyers who do not handle client complaints properly. Draft guidance published for consultation yesterday said that they could stage “supervisory interventions” into poorly performing firms.
Barristers specialising in professional negligence are more likely than colleagues in any other area of law to generate complaints, a report by the Bar Standards Board has found. The research found that ethnicity did not have an impact on complaints, but gender did, with men more likely to be complained about.
Law firms should be required by their regulators to publish details of complaints and average prices on their websites, the Legal Services Consumer Panel has said. The panel also called for the publication of firms’ litigation outcomes and success rates.
There is a “real risk” that members of the public will view the Solicitors Regulation Authority as “simply preferring the word of solicitors”, its independent review body has concluded. The Independent Complaint Resolution Service called for a review of compensation claim fund claims.
The Legal Ombudsman has set out plans for further cuts in the amount it spends on complaints about law firms, but more on claims management companies. LeO also warned that the Ministry of Justice was imposing “increasingly restrictive spending controls”.
The European directive on alternative dispute resolution will not only extend the period for making complaints about lawyers from six to twelve months, but reduce the grounds for the Legal Ombudsman to reject them from 14 to four, it has emerged.