Legal clients who had complaints about services and costs upheld by the regulator for solicitors and barristers received almost €32,000 in compensation in the past six months, according to new research.
In a report examining complaints about inadequate legal services, excessive costs and alleged misconduct, the Legal Services Regulatory Authority (LSRA) said it had found a “sustained high level of consumer complaints” this year.
The body upheld 50 of the complaints about services and costs that it determined in the six months to September and did not uphold 64. The complaints decided on included those received in the half-year period and some from earlier.
In one case, the LSRA found the services provided had been inadequate and directed the practitioner to waive their professional costs, transfer the client’s file to another legal practitioner and pay €3,000 in compensation to the client.
In another, where the LSRA found the legal costs charged were excessive, the practitioner was directed to reduce the professional fees from €16,500 plus VAT to €12,000 plus VAT.
Of the 60 determinations made in cases about services and costs that were received in the period, the LSRA upheld 36 complaints and did not uphold 24. Another 11 were resolved or could not proceed.
“In 20 of the 36 upheld complaints, the legal practitioner was directed to pay compensation to the complainant of up to €3,000. The total amount of that compensation was €31,862,” the LSRA said.
The LSRA complaints committee, which examines cases of alleged misconduct, upheld 15 complaints and referred a further 21 cases for further investigation to the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal, a separate body which can impose sanctions.
The report said 39 of the complaints before the LSRA complaints committee were not upheld and another 10 were resolved by the parties.
In the 15 complaints upheld by the complaints committee, directions were issued to the legal professionals. “These included directions to legal practitioners to pay a total of €4,305 in compensation to complainants and to pay €4,000 in costs to the LSRA,” the report said.
All told, the LSRA said it had closed 671 complaints in the six-month period. In the same period it received 655 complaints, with 624 related to solicitors and 31 to barristers. The LSRA said this reflected the higher number of solicitors and their greater level of contact with consumers.
“Misconduct complaints continue to account for some two-thirds of the total complaints received,” said LSRA chief executive Dr Brian Doherty.
The main legal service areas attracting complaints were litigation, conveyancing, family law and wills and probate.
The report said 133 of the complaints closed had been “resolved” with LSRA assistance, including 19 involving a process with mediators. Of the complaints closed, 299 were inadmissible and 60 had been withdrawn or could not proceed.