All complaints start at the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC). If the complaint is about conduct, it will be referred to us. If the complaint is about service, it is dealt with by the SLCC.
Our process is designed to ensure all complaints are investigated thoroughly and in an open and transparent manner.
When we receive a complaint from the SLCC, it is allocated to a complaints investigator. It may be necessary at this early stage for the investigator to request additional information from any of the parties involved. The solicitor is informed of the issues under investigation and is given the opportunity and time to respond.
The investigator carries out the investigation by gathering all the evidence and information from the complainer, solicitor and any other relevant sources.
At the end of the investigation, a written report is prepared. The report includes recommendations based on the evidence found during the investigation.
Both parties have an opportunity to comment at this stage.
Any comments and a supplementary report are submitted with the main report to one of our Professional Conduct Sub Committees.
The sub committee considers the report and decides what action to take. It may reach different conclusions from the recommendations made in the report. The sub committee is comprised of an equal number of solicitors and non-solicitors.
After the committee has made a decision, the complainer and solicitor are informed in writing.
The sub committee can decide:
• to take no action
• that the solicitor’s conduct is unsatisfactory professional conduct
• that the solicitor’s conduct may amount to professional misconduct (this is the more serious category)
1. Unsatisfactory professional conduct
Cases of unsatisfactory professional conduct are dealt with by us. If upheld, we can impose one or more of the following sanctions:
• a fine of up to £2,000
• payment of compensation to the complainer
of up to £5,000
• an order to undergo training
2. Professional misconduct
For more serious cases, we have the power to prosecute the solicitor before the Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal. This is an independent tribunal.
The tribunal can decide to:
• take no action
• impose a censure or fine
• order a compensation payment of up to £5,000
• restrict or suspend a solicitor’s practising certificate
• strike a solicitor from the roll of solicitors
• refer the complaint back to the Law Society if it thinks that it should be reconsidered as unsatisfactory professional conduct
In some instances, both complainer and solicitor can appeal to the Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal. See the Tribunal’s website for more details. If an appeal is not made within 21 days, the right to appeal may be lost. Both the complainer and the solicitor may ask the SLCC to review our handling of a complaint.
See the SLCC website for more details. There is a six month time limit for submitting handling complaints.
We appreciate that this can be an anxious time for both the complainer and solicitor and aim to deal with complaints as quickly as possible. However, to ensure fairness and transparency, investigations are very thorough and can take time to complete. It usually takes about eight months for a complaint to be concluded. We ask that all parties are patient and respond to requests for information as promptly as possible. An investigation may be suspended, if for example, there is a court action.
The Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal sets its own timescales.
We aim to conduct all investigations in a clear and transparent manner. Information will be made available to the complainer, solicitor and other relevant third parties as is necessary throughout the investigation. This may involve copying letters, reports or other documents. In some cases, information will be confidential to one party and will not be disclosed unless that party has provided written consent.
If you have an ongoing complaint with us, have a general query about the complaints process, or if you wish to receive information in a different language, you can contact us by calling 0131 476 8168 or via email. If you have a hearing or speech impairment, you can use the textphone on 0131 476 8359.