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More legal complaints now being settled informally
Dr Brian Doherty of the LSRA

10 Jul 2024 / regulation Print

More legal complaints now settled informally

The legal-services watchdog has said that it is encouraged by the growing number of consumers and lawyers who are willing to resolve complaints informally.

The annual report of the Legal Services Regulatory Authority (LSRA) shows that it received 1,290 complaints about legal practitioners last year, while it closed 1,432 complaints.

Speaking at the report’s publication, LSRA chief executive Dr Brian Doherty said that it was encouraging that a total of 256 complaints were resolved during the year with the assistance of the LSRA’s complaints staff and its trained mediators.

Fall in total complaints

The number of complaints received last year represented a 4% drop compared with 2022. Of the total, 1,233 related to solicitors while 57 were linked to barristers, reflecting the higher number of solicitors and their greater level of contact with consumers.

The largest category of complaints received, at 835 (65%), concerned alleged misconduct.

A further 244 complaints (19%) were from clients relating to inadequate standards of legal services, while 30 (2%) were from clients relating to excessive costs.

The remaining complaints were mixed-grounds complaints, combining two or more of the three statutory complaints grounds.

Of the complaints involving inadequate standards of service, almost 29% were linked to litigation, and 25% to conveyancing.

Litigation was also the leading category for complaints linked to excessive costs (37.2%), followed by family law (24.8%) and conveyancing (20.7%).

LSRA upheld 111 complaints

Of the total of 1,290 complaints, 525 were made against legal practitioners based in Dublin, while 134 were brought against practitioners based in Cork, 61 in Limerick, and 56 in Kerry.

The LSRA points out that multiple complaints may be brought against an individual legal practitioner.

Of the 1,432 complaints closed during 2023, almost half were found to be inadmissible following a statutory assessment. The LSRA upheld 111 complaints, while 138 complaints were not upheld.

A further 256 complaints were resolved with the assistance of the LSRA, and 30 complaints of alleged misconduct were referred to the separate Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal for an inquiry.

The LSRA made 12 applications to the High Court for orders to enforce its directions in complaints against legal practitioners.

Barrister numbers up 3% to 3,051

The annual reports shows that the LSRA authorised 36 partnerships of solicitors to operate as limited-liability partnerships (LLPs) last year, bringing the total authorised since November 2019 to 482.

The LSRA maintains the Roll of Practising Barristers, a searchable online register of all barristers entitled to provide legal services in the State.

The report shows that 3,051 barristers were on the roll at the end of 2023 – up 3% on the previous year. Of these, 2,139 were members of the Law Library, and 921 were practising outside of the Law Library.

Process ‘refined’

Dr Doherty said that more complaints were closed than received in 2023, attributing this to “the sustained effort of LSRA staff and members of its regulatory committees to improve efficiencies and refine complaints-handling processes”.

He welcomed the increased use of the LSRA’s mediators, who were involved in trying to resolve 93 complaints last year – up from 61 in 2022 and 38 in 2021.

Dr Doherty stressed that informal resolution was not an appropriate way to handle every type of complaint, adding that the LSRA could offer its mediator services only for consumer complaints about legal services or costs.

“However, in the right circumstances, this approach can be a very effective and efficient way for both parties to work through their issues or disputes on an entirely voluntarily basis, and in a safe and confidential manner with the help of our specialist staff,” he concluded.

Gazette Desk
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