SRA ‘seen to prefer’ the word of solicitors in handling complaints

Topics: Regulation and compliance

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Increasing numbers of clients have complained about the Solicitors Regulation Authority amidst a lingering feeling among consumers that it is biased towards solicitors, an independent body has reported. 

The Independent Complaint Resolution Service (ICRS) revealed that consumers made 107 complaints about the SRA’s handling of their case in the first nine months of 2015, compared with 68 in the whole of 2014.

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Most were from clients dissatisfied with the SRA’s response to a complaint about a solicitor, although in most cases the ICRS was unable to help because the complaint concerned a regulatory decision rather than how matters were handled.

The ICRS, which has since been replaced as complaints reviewer by the Ombudsman Services Limited, said in general the SRA had responded appropriately and provided acceptable reasons for decisions. However there remains a ‘real risk’ that members of the public will see the SRA as preferring the word of solicitors.

The service said the SRA should share detailed assessments of complaints by publishing examples of serious misconduct, or by putting in place arrangements for decision reviews.

ICRS partner Jodi Berg reported a marked increase in the number of referrals received.

‘Most of these came from members of the public who had complained about actions by solicitors which they felt warranted disciplinary action by the SRA,’ she said. ‘When the SRA did not agree with this, people were disappointed and often angered that solicitors had ‘got away with it’ and felt that the SRA was ‘on the side of solicitors’.

The complaint service recommended the SRA review its procedure for dealing with compensation fund claims to avoid any perception of bias, look again at information provided on its website about the closure of firms and review the information provided to indemnity insurers.

Berg noted that since the SRA has started to make clear what the ICRS can and cannot do, the number of referrals has slowed down.

Solicitors made just 11 complaints in 2015 about the SRA’s disciplinary process, with seven cases taken on.

Berg said the figures reflected a belief that solicitors are treated proportionately after a minor infringement of the rules.

‘The SRA’s disciplinary response can be somewhat rigid, due to current procedure, and may not have the flexibility to deal effectively with such issues in a less resource-intensive manner,’ she added.

Of the total complaints made in 2015, 12 were upheld and four were partially upheld.

The SRA’s Rachel Pillinger said: ‘We welcome the ICRS’s final report and we thank the ICRS for its independent consideration of matters, critical eye, helpful advice and recommendations during its term.

‘It has been instrumental in helping us improve not only the way we deal with complaints about our service but in identifying the root causes of complaints. We look forward to continuing this constructive dialogue with our new independent reviewer, the Ombudsman Services Limited, which started work in October 2015.’

Readers' comments (18)


  • Shock horror - recidivist complainers make unjustified or exaggerated complaints against Solicitors, and then complain when they don't get what they wanted.

    Presumably Ms Berg is happy to cave in to these folks and allow anyone who shouts loudest and for longest to have their own way...

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  • Either they'll make a new style of SRA to pay another load of quangocrats (Non lawyers so they don't prefer lawyers) the 6 figure sum to regulate Solicitors...so being regulated by someone who does not know a thing about law (that is the most plausible answer in this day and age) or they accept that Solicitors generally do all they can for their clients generally and there are a whole host of Solicitors being struck off/fined by the SRA to show that they do not prefer the word of a Solicitor if the case merits investigation.

    Sometimes, it has to be accepted that the law is complex and we, as Solicitors, try to guide our clients through the regulatory, and legal, minefield to obtain the best outcome for our client. Expectations are a different thing to reality and if those complainers think they can do better...do it yourself as the Government is expecting you too...

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  • What is the world coming to ? The word of a professional, who can be struck off for lying, preferred to that of an ex-client with a grudge and financial incentive. Whatever next ?

    I do hope the powers that be ( the SRA, LeO, LSB, CMA etc etc) will put an end to this.

    As they teach at school sports day now, it's very important that everyone gets a medal and not just the best people.

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  • I have dealt with many complaints over the years. We tell people how to do it before we start work on their matter. They complain and expect to not pay bills, hold out their hand and say "where is my compo now?" in other cases. If they are justified we apologise and try to restore balance. If they are not we go to war with them and make them wish they had never been born, we do not expect nor give any quarter. That is what you asked for. I have never seen so many people suffer "mental anguish and distress" about receiving a letter telling them what they do not want to hear. God knows how they would react in the face of real tragedy. Shameful when you think about what the war generation endured, for what this load of ?

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  • This really is quite extraordinary.

    The SRA are being reviewed by 'The Ombudsman Services Ltd' who presumably deliberately have no knowledge of law, regulation or the assessment of evidence: what could possibly be defective about that arrangement?

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  • ‘The SRA’s disciplinary response can be somewhat rigid, due to current procedure, and may not have the flexibility to deal effectively with such issues in a less resource-intensive manner,’ she added.
    what does this mean? Is it me?

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  • But the SRA can take two years plus to investigate a law firm undertaking unregulated FCA trading? Maybe they do not have to conduct themselves to the standards solicitors do?

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  • Where we can read the whole report?

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  • Let's see what The Ombudsman Services Ltd is going to do to get the "balance" right in the eyes of these particular "consumers" (who fortunately represent a very small minority of all clients)...I dread to think, It is sad but it seems unrecognised (by the Ombudsman at least) fact of life that those who are happy with things rarely bother to report the fact whereas those who are always unhappy with absolutely everything always do and do so in as noisy a fashion as possible!

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  • Anonymous19 January 2016 03:44 pm ill put money on them using a sledgehammer to crack a peanut.

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