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Are you meeting the needs of vulnerable clients?

LegalEye200 [1]In March 2016, the SRA published their Spring Update to the 2015/2016 Risk Outlook which highlighted a failure to provide a proper standard of service particularly for vulnerable clients as one of the priority risks facing the profession.

What is a vulnerable client?

There really is not a straightforward answer.  A person may be vulnerable for a number of reasons, including but not limited to;

Any one or a combination of these risk factors may mean that your client is vulnerable. In turn, your client may require additional assistance to understand the advice you are giving and just as importantly, they may lack capacity in terms of making decisions and providing instructions to you.

Having identified these risk factors, the next step is to ascertain any specific needs your client may have to ensure you provide the best access to your services? Example enquiries include;

What are ‘reasonable adjustments’?

The ‘reasonable adjustments’ duty under the Equality Act 2010 states: you must anticipate the needs of people with particular types of disability as well as making tailored reasonable adjustments for individuals.

Below are examples of adjustments to aid communication with your clients:

Firms must have policies and procedures in place which recognise and address the needs of vulnerable clients and thus, ensure that these clients receive a proper standard of service. In addition, staff should be trained to understand their statutory duty to provide a proper standard of service to vulnerable clients and in ways to achieve this.

What are the risks to your firm in failing to meet the needs of a vulnerable client?

Why is it so important that law firms recognise and act upon this priority risk? 

In the last 4 years, whilst complaints about solicitors have decreased by 22%, research has shown that 44% of clients who were dissatisfied with the service they received did not complain and it is likely that vulnerable clients are disproportionately represented amongst those.

Can you answer YES to the following;

For further information on how Legal Eye can assist you and for a sample Policy on Vulnerable Clients, Clients with Mental Health and Incapacity Issues, please email ds@legal-eye.co.uk [3] quoting reference #VC-052016