An increase in the number of firms aggressively chasing cases against other legal practices is behind a significant rise in the number of professional negligence claims, according to figures published today.
City firm RPC says the number of negligence claims filed in the High Court against solicitors has grown by 33% this year, from 98 to 130.
This increase is symptomatic of a wider rise of 170% in claims against solicitors and barristers since 2012.
RPC says conveyancing claims continue to make up around 50% of cases, but there are notable rises in the numbers of negligence claims involving inheritance and trusts.
The firm says the growth in professional negligence specialist firms is behind the rising numbers.
‘These firms often use aggressive advertising campaigns, including on daytime TV, to target individuals who are disappointed with the outcome of a personal injury claim or who have settled a divorce solicitor who handled their original case,’ said RPC.
At the same time, the increase in the number of litigants in person – who do not have a legal adviser to talk them out of pursuing weak claims – has seen more cases end up in court.
Joe Bryant, partner at RPC comments: ‘Dissatisfied clients are becoming increasingly likely to pursue a negligence claim against their solicitor. Advertising campaigns both by those specialist professional negligence law firms seeking to sue solicitors and organisations promoting access to the complaints system has meant that clients are more aware of how to make a claim than ever before, and therefore are more likely to pursue one if they feel their solicitor or barrister made an error during their case.
‘Whilst this is undoubtedly good news for the consumer, there is still not enough knowledge about how complaints against solicitors should be brought, meaning that unrepresented individuals are pursing claims through the courts and placing significant strain on already severely stretched resources.’
The rise, which had been predicted in January, has included an increase in allegations over the mishandling of money in inheritance matters.
RPC says more complex family structures, caused by divorcing and remarrying, have led to wider and less foreseeable inheritance claims, and this has created a ‘significant trap’ for the solicitor drafting a will.
Bad feeling among disjointed families also increases the likelihood of a will being challenged after death, and this almost inevitably brings in the probate solicitor ‘caught in the crossfire’.