SLCC wins against law firm to gain access to files for investigation

TheCourt of SessionAn interlocutor has been granted the authority to require a firm or solicitors to deliver any relevant files or documents to theScottish Legal Complaints Commission(SLCC), so that a client's complaint can be investigated.

SLCC wins against law firm to gain access to files for investigation

After years of concern about the lack of cooperation by a large number of Scottish solicitor firms in handling complaints, the SLCC initiated this action.

This is a widespread violation of the complaints legislation. This is the first time that the SLCC has taken legal action against a law company.

Neil StevensonChief executive said that the SLCC deals with more than 1000 complaints each year. This is a relatively small number when compared to the number of transactions in which a solicitor assists a client each and every year.

"But, around 40% of the SLCC cases over the past few years have been brought to our attention by solicitors who failed to comply with the statute. This creates additional problems for clients and causes worry in hundreds of cases each year. It also raises serious questions about the ethics and behavior of a portion of the profession.

He said, "It also causes an entirely unnecessary expense, running to tens of thousand of pounds, which is borned by other law firms that fund the complaints process and it impacts on the reputation of all the profession.

"For many years, we have raised this issue in our annual reports as well as to key stakeholders such the Law Society of Scotland. Communication, education and engagement would be key to improving compliance.

"Litigation is a last resort because it increases expenses ever further. We haven't seen any improvement in our situation and we now plan to take all solicitors who fail to follow the statute to court. Although this will increase costs in the short-term, it sends a clear signal that lawyers must comply with the law.

"We have instructed counsel to two additional cases. We are trying to build a body case law and to test the courts willingness award expenses against these firms. We are also looking at naming law firms that do not comply.

"I would like to also thank the 60% of law firms who respond promptly and helpfully. We know that complaints can happen to any company, and it can be very stressful for the complainants. It is a shame that some firms fail to provide the best customer care and complaint handling practices in the sector.

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