As in every organisation and despite our best efforts, things sometimes can and do go wrong. We want to know when we have not provided the kind of service we aim for. That way, we can try to put things right, learn from any mistakes and take action to improve our service for the future.

Similarly, we like to know when we provide a good service or where a member of staff has been of particular help. We welcome ideas, suggestions and more general comments about our work, processes, policies and standards.

Our handling of complaints against solicitors

If you are unhappy with the way we dealt with your complaint about the conduct of a solicitor then you can of course raise this directly with our staff team. You also have the right to complain to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission about how we handled your complaint. More information is available on the Commission's website.

Complaints about staff, policies and procedures

The Society has published service standards that explain what you can expect when you contact us and how we will handle your correspondence. This includes an overarching aim to treat people fairly and with respect.

If you want to make a complaint about a member of staff, our processes or policies then please contact our chief executive.

It is our practice to respond to all complaints, compliments and comments within ten working days with either a detailed response or an acknowledgment. We will also indicate the likely timescales involved in responding fully to your feedback where it has not been possible to do so within the original ten working days and keep you informed with progress.

We always try to resolve complaints informally where it is possible to do so. Equally, we realise that some complaints require more detailed investigation and, in such circumstances, the complaint will be referred to a senior member of our staff not connected with the original decision or process that led to the complaint.  We will always let you know the name of the person who is handling your complaint, including their contact details, and explain the procedure for dealing with your feedback.

Complaints about Council or committee members

We have a code of conduct with which all Council and committee members, whether elected, co-opted or appointed, are expect to comply. If you have concerns about the conduct of a Council or committee member then we encourage you to raise those concerns with the member concerned and seek to resolve any disagreement or issues informally. If you remain unhappy they you can make a formal complaint to us. 

Such complaints can be made in writing to:

Lorna Jack, Chief Executive

The Law Society of Scotland
Atria One,
144 Morrison St,
Edinburgh
EH3 8EX

Email: lornajack@lawscot.org.uk

Making a complaint against a Council or committee member

The Law Society of Scotland has a code of conduct with which all Council and committee members, whether elected, co-opted or appointed, are expect to comply. Any individual with concerns over the conduct of a Council or committee member is encouraged to raise their concerns with the member concerned and seek to resolve any disagreement or issues informally.

If an individual remains unhappy, they can make a formal complaint to the Society and this policy sets out the process which we will use for dealing with such complaints.

This process sits separate to the statutory complaints process that allows an individual to make a complaint against a solicitor via the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission. The Society may not consider a complaint under this policy if a complaint has already been made against a Council or committee member to the SLCC or a similar complaints body member and which relates to the same issue.

1. Making a complaint

Any complaint against a Council or committee member should be referred to the chief executive of the Law Society of Scotland in the first instance by way of a written complaint, either by letter or email. Any individual, whether a fellow Council or committee member, staff member, member of the Society or member of the public is entitled to make such a complaint.

Such a complaint must:

1. identify which Council or committee member their complaint relates to,

2. refer to which part or parts of the code of conduct they their complaint relates to,

3. provide specific reasons as to why they believe the Council or committee member has broken the code of conduct.

4. Include the name and contact details of the person making the complaint.

On receiving the complaint, the chief executive shall be responsible for acknowledging receipt within three working days. The chief executive shall also be responsible for considering whether the complaint has the necessary information to proceed. If there is insufficient information, the chief executive shall contact the person making the complaint (‘the complainant’) with a request for the additional information. The complainant shall normally be expected to respond to this request within five working days.

If the complaint contains sufficient information, the chief executive shall, at the earliest practicable opportunity, contact the Council or committee member against whom the complaint has been made (‘the Council or committee member’) and provide them with a copy of the complaint, including a clear reference to the part or parts of the code of conduct which they have allegedly broken. It shall be normal practice for the chief executive to also provide the Council or committee member with the name of the complainant unless there is good reason for not doing so, for example, because of an allegation of bullying or harassment.

2. Resolving the complaint by mediation

The chief executive shall first seek to resolve the complaint through mediation. The chief executive shall offer both the complainant and the Council or committee member the opportunity to discuss the complaint. Providing both parties agree to this, the chief executive shall arrange a meeting to try and resolve the complaint through mediation at the earliest practicable opportunity. The chief executive may appoint another senior member of staff to carry out this mediation. There is no obligation on either party to agree to mediation.

If the attempt to resolve the complaint by way of mediation is successful then no further action will be taken. If either party refuses the offer of mediation, or if this process does not resolve the complaint, then the process shall continue as detailed below.

3. First consideration of the complaint

The chief executive shall review the complaint with the convener of the Society’s Audit Committee (the audit convener) and both will collectively decide whether the complaint is of a sufficiently seriousness nature as to merit investigation. The chief executive and audit convener shall give due consideration to whether a complaint has been made to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission or a similar complaints body and which relates to the same issue.

If such a complaint has been made then the chief executive and audit convener shall have the right to await the outcome of that process before deciding whether to initiate any internal investigation.

If the chief executive and audit convener do not agree on whether the complaint should be admitted for investigation then the president shall be asked to appoint a senior member of Council who will consider the complaint and, following discussion with the chief executive and audit convener, decide on whether the complaint should be investigated.

If the complaint is not considered sufficiently serious then the chief executive and audit convener shall have the right to simply inform the Council or committee member of this without a further investigation but provide a recommendation on how the issue can be resolved and ensure any minor breaches are not repeated.

The complainant and Council or committee member will be informed as to whether their complaint will or will not be investigated, with clear reasoning if the complaint has been dismissed.

The complainant shall have the right to appeal against a decision not to admit the complaint for investigation. An appeal must be made in writing to the chief executive within ten working days of the complainant being informed of the decision not to investigate. The Council or committee member against whom the complaint has been made shall be informed at the earliest opportunity if an appeal has been submitted.

An appeal will be referred to the president for consideration and a decision made as to whether to uphold the appeal within five working days. In such circumstances, the decision of the president as to whether the complaint is admitted for investigation will be final. Should the appeal be successful, the process shall continue as normal with the complainant and Council or committee member informed of the decision with reasons why the appeal was successful.

If the complaint is against the audit convener then the role of the audit convener shall be undertaken by the president, with any appeal referred to the immediate past president.

If the complaint is against the president or if the nature of the complaint makes it inappropriate for the president to consider an appeal then the role of the president shall be undertaken by the immediate past president.

4. Investigation of the complaint

If the complaint is admitted for investigation, the chief executive and audit convener will initiate a detailed investigation of the complaint by either:

• referring the a senior member of staff; or

• referring the matter to a three member panel of the audit convener and two other Council members, who will be selected by the chief executive and audit convener.

A specific timescale will be agreed by the chief executive and audit convener so that a conclusion to the investigation can ideally be reached within 20 working days of the receipt of the original complaint. Both the complainant and the Council or committee member will be contacted and informed of the process and timescales involved.

In exceptional circumstances where it will not be possible to conclude the investigation within this 20 day period, both the complainant and the Council or committee member shall be provided with details of why the investigation is to take longer along with any revised timescale.

The individual or panel investigating the complaint shall be expected to conduct the investigation fairly and must ensure that both the complainant and the Council or committee member have been given sufficient opportunity to input into the process.

If either the complainant or the Council or committee member have reason to believe that the investigation process is not following due process then this should be raised in writing, with reasons given, to the chief executive. The matter will be considered by the chief executive and audit convener with a response provided within five working days.

If the complaint is against the audit convener then the role of the audit convener shall be undertaken by the president.

5. Report of investigation, conclusion and recommendation

Once the investigation is complete, a report shall be prepared by the individual or panel carrying out the investigation. The report must adequately reflect the views of both sides in addition to any conclusions reached to ensure Council can, if and when required, make an informed decision. The report should contain a clear conclusion as to whether there has been a breach of the code of conduct and detail what, if any, parts of the code have been breached.

A draft copy of the report will be made available to the complainant and the Council or committee member at the earliest possible opportunity with a request for suggested corrections to any factual inaccuracies within five working days. The individual or panel carrying out the investigation must give due consideration to any suggested factual corrections but is not obliged to make such corrections.

A final report shall be provided to the chief executive and audit convener. If the report concludes that there has been no breach of the code of conduct then the complainant and the Council or committee member shall be provided with a full copy of the report at the earliest available opportunity and informed that no further action will be taken.

If the report concludes there has been a breach of the code of conduct then the report shall be provided to the complainant and the Council or committee member. The report shall also be circulated to Council members in good time for consideration at the next scheduled meeting of the Council.

Once these steps have been taken, the chief executive and audit convener shall have the right to jointly agree to make the report public. Such a decision will be reported to the complainant, the Council or committee member and other members of Council in advance of publication.

If the complaint refers to an alleged breach of the code of conduct by the audit convener, the role of the audit convener shall be undertaken by the president.

6. Dealing with a breach of the code

If a Council or committee member has been found to be in breach of the code of conduct, the individual or panel investigating the breach will make a recommendation as to what action, if any, should be taken against the Council member concerned. It is however entirely a matter for Council to take a final decision. In such circumstances, Council should consider the matter at its next scheduled meeting and shall have the power to either:

• decide that no action be taken;

• censure the Council or committee member or;

• suspend the member from Council for a specified period in line with Article 11(3) of the Society’s constitution or, in the case of a committee member, simply suspend them from the committee(s) of which they are a member.

Council’s decision shall be final in all circumstances.