Complaints against solicitor reach 156

Law Society figures show eight solicitors were struck off

 

Complaints against one solicitor over the past year numbered 156, new figures provided by the Law Society show. The regulatory body for solicitors says a further five had 20 or more complaints against them in the year to the end of August this year.

According to the Law Society’s 2012-13 annual report, the number of overall complaints against solicitors is down on the previous year, with 2,477 admissible complaints made, compared to 2,813 in 2011-12.

The ultimate sanction available to the Law Society to punish wayward solicitors – striking them off the register – was used eight times, compared to nine times in 2012.

The director general of the Law Society, Ken Murphy, said: “No particular significance should be attributed to the number of solicitors struck off from one year to the next, certainly not over as short a time span as two or three years, as many different factors contribute to an inevitable fluctuation in such numbers.”

Mr Murphy would not be drawn on any details relating to the case where 156 complaints were made against one solicitor.

He said that on foot of legal advice on the issue, the society was not in a position to answer questions on the issue “as it has been advised that to do so would constitute a breach of the data protection Acts. The society has no choice but to comply with the law in this, as in all matters.”

The numbers of complaints referred to the disciplinary tribunal last year increased from 116 to 181.

Mr Murphy said the increase in referrals to the tribunal reflected the increase in complaints received from lending institutions about undertakings given to deliver title deeds and certificates of title to lending institutions.

“These complaints are a direct result of the explosion in residential and commercial conveyancing and the subsequent collapse of the property market, which left solicitors unable in some cases to comply with their undertakings,” he said.

The 2,116 admissible complaints for 2012-13 are broken down in 1,178 allegations of misconduct; 314 allegations of inadequate professional services and 84 allegations of excessive fees.

A breakdown of the 916 complaints dealt with in 2012-13 show that 501 complaints were resolved; 160 withdrawn or abandoned; 153 rejected; 74 “other”; 60 had no grounds for complaint but assistance provided with recommendations were made in 12 and eight directions were made in the remaining cases.

The figures show that of the 2,116 complaints, 873 were made by solicitors against solicitors and 1,243 by parties other than solicitors.

The high volume of solicitors making complaints against solicitors is explained by a large proportion of those solicitors acting on behalf of financial institutions.