Solicitor told to pay €500 for not adequately explaining costs

Solicitor told to pay €500 for not adequately explaining costs

A solicitor was directed to pay €500 to a client who won a payout in a personal injuries case after not adequately explaining the costs involved.

The Legal Services Regulatory Authority (LSRA) found that the legal services “were of an inadequate standard because the poor communication from the solicitor to the client led to confusion about the costs”.

The solicitor had not responded to letters from the client seeking clarification about the charges. The LSRA said it is “particularly important to ensure that specific questions from your client on these issues are not left unanswered”.

The case is included in the LSRA’s second complaints report for 2023, which shows it received 655 complaints about legal practitioners in the six-month period from 4 March 2023 to 1 September 2023, with 671 complaints closed.

Almost all (624) of the complaints related to solicitors and 31 to barristers. Of the complaints, nearly two-thirds (65 per cent) alleged misconduct, with 31 per cent related to legal services of an inadequate standard. Four per cent came under the category of excessive costs.

Of the 671 complaints closed during the reporting period, nearly half (44 per cent) were found to be inadmissible and a fifth (20 per cent) were resolved with the assistance of the LSRA. Just 17 per cent were determined by the LSRA, while nine per cent were withdrawn or could not proceed.

A further 21 complaints were referred to the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal (LPDT) for further investigation. The LPDT is a separate body to the LSRA which hears complaints of alleged misconduct.

The 133 complaints resolved with the assistance of the LSRA included 19 complaints resolved between the parties in the LSRA’s informal resolution process with the help of trained mediators.

The 114 determined complaints comprise 64 upheld complaints and 50 complaints which were not upheld.

Overall, legal practitioners were directed to pay a total of €31,862 in compensation to complainants in the reporting period.

Dr Brian Doherty, chief executive of the LSRA, said: “Today’s report shows a sustained high level of consumer complaints to the LSRA over the past six months about inadequate legal services, excessive costs and alleged misconduct.

“Misconduct complaints continue to account for some two-thirds of the total complaints received. While the LSRA’s Complaints Committee investigates misconduct complaints and can sanction legal practitioners, it does not itself make findings of misconduct. Instead, it refers more serious matters to the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal, which is a separate body to the LSRA.

“I very much welcome the fact that the Tribunal recently started holding public inquiries into complaints brought to it by both the LSRA and the Law Society of Ireland. The setting up of the Tribunal is yet another milestone for the independent complaints handling regime which the LSRA has been operating for almost four years now.

“The LSRA has a duty to publish the Tribunal’s findings and we plan to begin this in the coming months. This is an important transparency measure for legal practitioners and consumers alike.”

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