Just 0.09% of solicitor instructions result in complaints.
Complaints figures for 2017 published today by the Law Society of Ireland show historic lows across a range of variables:
- Complaints were made on just 0.09% of instructions (i.e. individual cases or transactions) carried out by solicitors,
- Solicitors received two-thirds fewer complaints in 2017 compared to twenty years ago, and
- 94% of all solicitors had no complaints made against them in 2017.
The Law Society is the statutory regulator for complaints against solicitors. Complaints can be made by clients, other solicitors, financial institutions, and the Registrar of Solicitors. Complaints can relate to misconduct, excessive fees, and inadequate professional services.
“Transparency is important to the Law Society,” says the Director General of the Law Society Ken Murphy. “By publishing these figures we can show that clients can rely on their solicitor more now than at any other time in the recent past, certainly in the last twenty years.”
“The data shows that the overwhelming majority of solicitors’ instructions are handled correctly, professionally and to the satisfaction of the client. In fact, we can now estimate that 99.91% of instructions never result in a complaint.”
“These are figures the solicitors’ profession can be proud of. They demonstrate the high quality of legal services and client care provided by solicitors as well as the general high level of client satisfaction.”
The low levels of complaints can be attributed to a number of factors, including:
- Increased effectiveness and robustness of the Law Society’s regulatory system,
- Improved education of trainee and qualified solicitors about client care,
- Increased focus on firm risk-management procedures through professional indemnity insurance,
- Decline in the number of some types of instructions, including property transactions, and
- Increased competition within the profession with clients more likely to change solicitor if they get poor-quality service.
Complaints per instruction
As a general rule, complaints are made per instruction rather than per solicitor. A rule-of-thumb estimate is that each practising solicitor carries out an average of 100 instructions per year. As there were 10,499 practising solicitors in 2017, we can estimate there were 1,049,900 instructions completed last year.
These instructions resulted in just 986 admissible complaints being made, or 0.09% of the total. This is 63% lower than the peak of complaints in 2011 (2,667) and 34% lower than the average number of admissible complaints over the last 20 years (1,485).
Complaints per solicitor
Despite the fluctuations in the number of complaints, the number of solicitors against whom complaints have been made has been decreasing steadily at an average rate of 0.4% per year.
The size of the solicitors’ profession has grown significantly rising from 4,950 in 1998 to 7,867 in 2007 and to 10,499 in 2017. When numbers of practising solicitors are taken into account, the likelihood that complainants will make a complaint against a solicitor is half of what it was ten years ago (9% in 2017 as against 18% in 2007) and two-fifths of what it was in 1998 (22.4%).
At the end of 2017, the proportion of solicitors against whom an admissible complaint has been made is at a 20-year low, at just 6.2% (650 of 10,499 practising solicitors) – from a high of 14.7% (727 of 4,950 solicitors) in 1998. In 2017, 94% of solicitors had no complaints made against them.
Following the enactment of the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015, the Legal Services Regulatory Authority (LSRA) was established as the new complaints handling body for the legal professions. The LSRA’s Strategic Plan 2018-2020 advises that they hope to be ready to accept and investigate complaints beginning Quarter 2 2019.
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