If you have a complaint about a solicitor, the Law Society of Ireland, as the regulatory body for solicitors, may be able to help you depending on the circumstances as outlined here.
Complaints the Society may investigate
The Society may investigate complaints against solicitors made by or on behalf of clients (including beneficiaries) alleging:
A. Inadequate professional services
This is defined in Section 8 of the 1994 Solicitors (Amendment) Act as services which are inadequate in any material respect and are not of a quality that could reasonably be expected of a solicitor or a firm of solicitors. Complaints under this heading must be made within five years.
B. Excessive fees
The Society can deal with a complaint by or on behalf of a client that a bill is excessive. However, the Society is not permitted to consider any complaint about a bill that is more than five years old.
A client also has the option, within a year of delivery of the bill, of requesting his solicitor to refer the bill to the Taxing Master.
The statutory definition of Misconduct in the Solicitors Acts includes but is not restricted to:
- Conduct tending to bring the solicitors’ profession into disrepute.
- The contravention of a provision of the Solicitors Acts 1954-2011, or any order or regulation made thereunder.
In some cases, it may be more appropriate to seek a civil remedy in the courts than pursuing a complaint through the Law Society. For information on this, see taking legal action against a solicitor.
Complaints and Client Relations Section, Law Society of Ireland, George's Court, George's Lane, Dublin 7.
Tel: 01 879 8700, fax: 01 879 8785 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Letters and emails will be answered as soon as possible, but the Complaints and Client Relations Section cannot give you legal advice, second opinions or arrange legal representation.
How to make a complaint
If you wish to make a complaint, please follow the steps below:
- Write to the solicitor explaining your dissatisfaction and allow a reasonable time for the solicitor to reply. Send a copy of this letter to the Senior Partner (if there is one) of the firm in question, if relevant.
- If you do not get satisfaction, consider carefully whether the Law Society can investigate your complaint. See our information booklet Complaints about Solicitors.
- Complete our complaint form and send it to the Complaints and Client Relations Section, George's Court, George's Lane, Dublin 7. We cannot open a complaint file until we have an original signed complaint and a postal address.
- Set out, in a concise manner, the basis of your complaint and the name and address of your solicitor. If you have more than one complaint, list them in a 1, 2, 3 etc. format for ease of investigation, with copies of relevant documentation (no originals). New complaints will not be entertained once the investigation has started. If you are complaining about more than one solicitor, please make separate complaints.
Please note that complaints are dealt with in writing and all relevant correspondence in relation to a complaint will be furnished to the solicitor.
Complaints are investigated by the Law Society's Complaints and Client Relations Section, which is staffed by experienced solicitors.The complaints procedure is as follows:
- On receipt of a complaint, it is assigned to an investigating solicitor in the Society's Complaints and Client Relations Section. The investigating solicitor first decides whether the Society can deal with your complaint. If so, a copy of your letter will be sent to the solicitor and the solicitor will be asked to comment. The Complaints section must always ask for the solicitor’s response before expressing any views.
- You will be sent a copy of the solicitor’s response to the Society. If the Society is satisfied that the solicitor’s explanations are reasonable, you will be informed that the Society will not intervene. Alternatively, the investigating solicitor will continue to investigate the complaint and may ask you for more information.
- If your complaint cannot be resolved, the investigating solicitor may refer it to the Society's Complaints and Client Relations Committee (CCRC). You do not have to attend the Committee meeting. If you want to be there, please let the investigating solicitor know so that arrangements can be made for your attendance.
- The Committee will consider the documents and correspondence compiled by the Complaints and Client Relations Section and - if appropriate, having interviewed the solicitor and sought any other information which it thinks relevant - may again try to resolve the matter between the complainant and the solicitor.
- If the complaint cannot be resolved, the Committee will make a formal decision, based on the facts before it, whether to uphold or reject the complaint, direct the solicitor to take certain steps, require the solicitor to waive/refund fees, impose a reprimand, refer the solicitor to the Disciplinary Tribunal or direct the solicitor to pay compensation not exceeding €3,000.
Please note, if you are dissatisfied with the manner in which your complaint has been dealt with by the Law Society, you can refer the matter to the Independent Adjudicator.
More information regarding the CCRC
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal is an independent statutory tribunal appointed by the President of the High Court to consider complaints of misconduct against solicitors.
Referring complaints to the Tribunal
The Law Society may refer your complaint to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.
Every client of a solicitor also has a right to make a direct application to the Disciplinary Tribunal without having the complaint dealt with in the first instance by the Law Society.
If you have already made a complaint to the Society and your complaint has not been upheld, you are still entitled to apply to the Tribunal.
Members & Powers
The members of the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, which is independent of the Society, are appointed by the President of the High Court. The tribunal also includes lay members (non-solicitors). The Tribunal has limited judicial powers. Its primary function is to establish, by evidence and documents, the facts of your complaint, and to decide whether misconduct is proved.
Findings & Sanctions
Where there is a finding of misconduct, the Tribunal can itself impose a sanction on the solicitor (which can include a direction to pay restitution of a sum not exceeding €15,000 to any aggrieved party) or the Tribunal may refer its finding and recommendation to the President of the High Court, who ultimately will decide on the nature of the sanction to be imposed on the solicitor.
How to make an application
To make an application to the Tribunal, a form of application and a sworn affidavit must be completed. If you are considering a direct application to the Tribunal, you should first contact the Clerk of the Disciplinary Tribunal, The Disciplinary Tribunal, The Friary, Bow Street, Dublin 7 to obtain the appropriate information leaflet and application forms.
For more information, visit the Disciplinary Tribunal website.
Check a Solicitor's Disciplinary Record
To check a solicitor's record, you can search a database containing the disciplinary records of solicitors by clicking on the link below.
If you are dissatisfied with the manner in which the Law Society has dealt with any complaint made by or on behalf of any person against their solicitor, you can apply to the Independent Adjudicator, as outlined here.
Role of the Independent Adjudicator
The office of the Independent Adjudicator was established to provide an independent forum to which members of the public may apply if they are dissatisfied with the manner in which the Law Society has dealt with any complaint made by or on behalf of any person against their solicitor.
The Adjudicator’s role is to ensure that complaints about the conduct of a solicitor are dealt with fairly and impartially by the Law Society and to recommend any changes in the Society’s complaints procedures which are, in his view, necessary to maintain the highest standards.
In December 2005, the Adjudicator's function was extended to deal with complaints about any decision by the Law Society concerning an application for a grant from the Law Society's Compensation Fund.
When can you apply?
You can apply to the Adjudicator if dissatisfied with the way in which your complaint has been handled by the Law Society, or with any decision concerning an application for a grant from the Law Society's Compensation Fund. Your application must be within the three year period immediately following the Society’s decision.
It is important to note that the Adjudicator can only deal with a complaint about the Society’s handling of a complaint against a solicitor. The Adjudicator cannot investigate at first hand a complaint about a solicitor. Complaints of this nature should be forwarded directly to The Law Society.
Complaints to the Adjudicator
Complaints, which must be in writing, should contain the following information:
- The reference used by the Law Society on its correspondence.
- The date on which the Society made its decision (a copy of the letter conveying the Society’s decision should be enclosed if available).
- Confirmation that the subject matter of the complaint to the Adjudicator has not already been considered by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.
Send your complaints to Independent Adjudicator of the Law Society, 26/27 Upper Pembroke Street, Dublin 2.
For more information, telephone 353 1 662 0457 or visit the Adjudicator website.
If the Adjudicator is satisfied that the complaint made to her falls within her terms of reference she will examine the Law Society’s file and make whatever enquiries are considered necessary by her. Having completed her investigation, she may, if appropriate, direct the Society to either re-examine the complaint or to make an application to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.
The Adjudicator cannot award compensation and cannot consider any matters which have been dealt with by the Society’s Regulation of Practice Committee (other than claims on the Compensation Fund), the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal or, in the case of complaints about excessive fees, the Taxing Master.
If a complaint is still under investigation by the Law Society, the Adjudicator will await the Society’s determination before dealing with any complaint received.
Terms of Reference
For more information, see the Independent Adjudicator's Annual Report.