Law Society: cost of complaint handling climbs



The number of solicitors struck off by the Law Society last year increased from five to nine. However, Director General of the Law Society, Ken Murphy says this cannot be seen as a “trend”.

“There is nothing sensible that can said of the increase,” he says, pointing out that the number of solicitors struck off in 2010 was eight and in 2009 was 10.

Murphy made his comments as new figures show that the Law Society spend on handling complaints against solicitors and associated costs increased last year by eight per cent from €3.68 million to €4 million.

The Law Society’s annual financial statements for 2012 show that the spend on “complaints handling” increased from €1.1 million to €1.23 million with the costs of the solicitors’ disciplinary tribunal increasing from €767,659 to €843,242.

“The increase in expenditure on regulation is substantially accounted for by an increase in legal costs due to a higher volume of regulatory litigation,” says Murphy.

The number of complaints received by the Law Society to the end of August last totalled 2,453 – representing a six per cent decrease on the 2,622 complaints received in the year to the end of August 2011.

Vexatious complaints
The Law Society funds the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal and Murphy says that vexatious complaints against solicitors are a problem for the tribunal.

“The Tribunal has no discretion in this regard and must process every application received, regardless of how vexatious or frivolous it may be,” he says.

“It is has been the Law Society’s view for many years that the public are concerned that complaints about their solicitor must be made to the Law Society, which – no matter how often we seek to explain the degree of external oversight and control, through a lay majority on the Complaints and Client Relations Committee, a lay Independent Adjudicator, etc – the public views as “self-regulation”.

“The Law Society has decided that it would be in the best interests of the public and of the profession if complaints should no longer be made to the Law Society but should be made instead to either the proposed Legal Services Regulation Authority or (in respect of fees) to the proposed Legal Costs Adjudicator,” he says.

Lay members have been in a majority on the Complaints and Client Relations Committee since 2009 according to Murphy.