Lawyers forced to pay out nearly €44,000 following complaints

Lawyers forced to pay out nearly €44,000 following complaints

Lawyers were directed to pay nearly €44,000 in compensation payments by the Legal Services Regulatory Authority (LSRA) in the past six months on the foot of complaints from members of the public.

The LSRA’s first complaints report for 2023 shows it received 595 complaints in the six-month period from 3 September 2022 to 3 March 2023 and closed 596 complaints in the same period.

The vast majority (97 per cent) of complaints related to solicitors, reflecting the higher number of solicitors and their greater level of contact with consumers.

A total of 374 complaints (63 per cent) alleged misconduct, with 195 complaints (33 per cent) related to legal services of an inadequate standard. A further 26 (four per cent) came under the category of excessive costs (overcharging).

Of the 596 complaints which were closed, 291 complaints (49 per cent) were found to be inadmissible, 226 (38 per cent) were either resolved or determined by the LSRA and 80 (13 per cent) were withdrawn or deferred.

The 226 resolved or determined complaints comprised:

  • 130 complaints where LSRA determinations were made, comprising 35 services and costs complaints and 95 complaints of alleged misconduct. This includes a total of 13 complaints of alleged misconduct which were referred to the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal (LPDT) for further investigation. The LPDT is a separate body to the LSRA.
  • 83 complaints resolved with the assistance of the LSRA before a decision was made as to whether the complaint was admissible.
  • 13 services and costs complaints resolved with the help of the LSRA’s trained mediators after they had been made admissible.

Overall, legal practitioners were directed to pay a total of €43,700 in compensation to complainants.

Dr Brian Doherty, chief executive of the LSRA, said: “It is always encouraging to see complainants and legal practitioners making efforts to resolve issues early on in the complaints process. I am pleased to report that in this reporting period a total of 96 complaints were resolved in this way, including 13 complaints which were resolved with the help of the LSRA’s trained mediators.

“It makes sense that complaints about consumer matters such as service delays, poor communications or overcharging are addressed quickly and informally where possible. This can lead to practical common sense outcomes for both parties, who can then move on with their affairs.

“The additional clear benefit of taking a positive and proactive approach to resolving complaints is that it avoids protracted and costly investigations, which in turn reduces the costs of the LSRA which are passed on to all legal practitioners through an annual levy.”

Dr Doherty also emphasised the small but growing number of instances where the LSRA has made determinations in complaints and issued statutory directions to legal practitioners, and the practitioners have chosen not to comply with the directions.

He said: “Legal practitioners should be aware that the LSRA will use its statutory powers and apply to the High Court for an order to enforce directions made against legal practitioners.

“The LSRA will also apply for an order covering any costs it has incurred in taking court actions, as otherwise these costs too fall to be included in the annual levy through which the LSRA is funded. In effect, where legal practitioners fail to engage with the LSRA or to comply with statutory directions, the cost is borne to a large extent by their colleagues.”

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