Legal regulator warns it will take enforcement actions in High Court
The Legal Services Regulatory Authority (LSRA) has warned practitioners that they must comply with its directions on foot of consumer complaints or risk being brought to the High Court.
The regulator issued the reminder as it published its annual report for 2022, showing that it issued seven applications to the High Court for orders to enforce its directions against legal practitioners.
It marks the first time that the LSRA has resorted to the High Court since taking responsibility for complaints about solicitors and barristers in 2019.
Separately, the report shows that the LSRA received a total of 1,352 complaints, down 15 per cent from the previous year, and closed a total of 1,483 complaints in 2022.
The largest category of complaints received, at 861 (64 per cent), related to alleged misconduct. A total of 433 (32 per cent) were about inadequate standards of legal services, and a further 58 (four per cent) were about excessive costs.
A total of 1,310 complaints were made against solicitors while 42 related to barristers, reflecting the higher number of solicitors and their greater level of contact with consumers.
Out of the total of 1,352 complaints, 504 (37 per cent) were made against legal practitioners based in Dublin city and county, while 151 (11 per cent) were brought against legal practitioners based in Cork, 67 (five per cent) were in Limerick and 60 (four per cent) were in Galway.
A total of 1,483 complaints were closed during 2022. Of these, 677 (46 per cent) were found to be inadmissible following a statutory assessment. A further 348 complaints were resolved with the assistance of the LSRA, and 212 were withdrawn or could not proceed.
Dr Brian Doherty, chief executive of the LSRA, said: “In 2022, due to the failure of a small number of legal practitioners to comply with directions made following the investigation of a complaint, the LSRA began applying to the High Court for enforcement orders.
“Where a direction has been made by the LSRA or one of its committees and the legal practitioner fails to comply within the required timeline, the LSRA will apply to the High Court for enforcement and will also seek an order for costs.
“Such action should not be necessary as every legal practitioner should comply with the directions of the regulator. Failure to do so creates unnecessary work, which slows down the system and also creates additional costs which are passed on to all legal practitioners through the annual levy collected by the LSRA to fund its operations.”