The Law Society of Scotland prosecuted 31 cases of misconduct before the independent Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal (SSDT) in 2014-2015.
The SSDT has published its annual report for 2015 today, Monday 29 February 2016. The report states that the tribunal heard and made decisions on 40 cases, including appeal cases. It made 25 findings of professional misconduct. A total of eight solicitors were struck off and can no longer practice. One solicitor was suspended and a further seven had their practising certificates restricted. A total of 11 solicitors were censured or censured and fined. Compensation was awarded in five cases.
In response to the publication of the annual report, Christine McLintock, president of the Law Society of Scotland, said: “The Law Society’s primary regulatory roles are to hold solicitors to the high professional standards set for them and to protect people from solicitors whose conduct breaches these standards.
“People rely on solicitors to do a good job for them and in the vast majority of cases, solicitors’ clients are happy with the advice and the level of service they receive – the most recent research by Ipsos MORI showed that 90% of solicitors’ clients were satisfied. Our research also shows year on year that the vast majority of our members also believe regulation is a key priority for the Law Society, with over 80% agreeing we should intervene where critical failure has been identified at a firm and over 70% believing it is a priority for the Society to set standards and update practice rules.
“It’s important that clients can be confident in raising concerns and that their complaint will be dealt with appropriately on those occasions where things have gone wrong. We have been effective in our work to identify where solicitors have not met the standards required of them, for example, if problems are exposed at a firm following a Law Society inspection, and have also reduced the time taken to investigate conduct complaints year on year. Where a matter has been identified as misconduct, we prosecute the solicitor before the Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal, an independent body made up of equal numbers of both solicitors and non-solicitors.”
This year, the SSDT’s annual report has highlighted the most common issues giving rise to conduct complaints against solicitors. Many cases involved not complying with Law Society’s practice or accounts rules and non-compliance with Council of Mortgage Lender handbook rules, while others included excessive delays or simply not responding to clients or the Law Society. The SSDT also dealt with cases relating to dishonesty, including two cases involving solicitors who had been convicted and sentenced by the courts prior to the tribunal hearing and who were subsequently struck off.
Ms McLintock said: “We advise all of our members to be aware of the issues that give rise to conduct complaints and work to ensure that they meet the standards expected of them.
“Dealing with complaints is complex and can often be very difficult for all those involved. It is essential therefore that we, along with the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission and the SSDT, work to ensure that the processes in place are robust and fair to both complainer and solicitor, and that the right outcome can be reached in each case.”
The SSDT annual report can be read on the SSDT website.
Notes to editor
The Law Society is the professional body for all Scottish solicitors. Established in 1949, the Society regulates and represents solicitors and has an important duty towards the public interest. It has over 11,000 practising solicitor members in Scotland, elsewhere in the UK and overseas.
The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC), is the gateway for all legal complaints in Scotland and can investigate service complaints raised against legal practitioners in Scotland, who include qualified conveyancers, solicitors, advocates and commercial attorneys.
The Law Society of Scotland investigates matters of professional misconduct or unsatisfactory professional conduct involving solicitors. Complaints committees comprise 50% solicitor and 50% non-solicitor members. The Society may make a finding of unsatisfactory professional conduct or can prosecute solicitors before the SSDT.
The Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal (SSDT) is an independent body and currently has 12 solicitor and 12 non-solicitor members. It has the powers to use a range of sanctions from censuring or fining a solicitor, to restricting their ability to practise and in the most serious cases, strike them from the roll of solicitors.
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