Six hundred complaints against lawyers made over six-month period

Most complaints to regulatory authority related to alleged misconduct

Alleged misconduct is broadly defined in the law and includes an act or omission involving fraud or dishonesty, or something likely to bring the profession into disrepute. Photograph: Alan Betson / THE IRISH TIMES

Alleged misconduct is broadly defined in the law and includes an act or omission involving fraud or dishonesty, or something likely to bring the profession into disrepute. Photograph: Alan Betson / THE IRISH TIMES

 

There were more than 600 complaints against lawyers, mostly solicitors, in the six months to early September, according to the latest report from the Legal Services Regulatory Authority (LSRA).

Of the 607 complaints received, 587 related to solicitors and only 18 to barristers.

More than half of the complaints received (346) related to alleged misconduct, which is broadly defined in the law and includes an act or omission involving fraud or dishonesty, or something likely to bring the profession into disrepute.

A further 213 complaints alleged that the legal services provided were of an inadequate standard, while 46 related to alleged charging of excessive costs.

The LSRA took over the role of dealing with complaints last October and the report published today is its second such report since then. The previous report said it had received 636 complaints in the five months to early March.

A number of complaints received during the period to September were from members of the public, as well as others such as expert witnesses and interpreters, “alleging that a legal practitioner has been rude and abusive to them or made remarks of a personal or profane nature,” the report said.

Behaving in a rude or insulting manner can have disciplinary consequences if a complaint is upheld, the report noted, especially if a pattern of such behaviour could be shown.

The regulator said it intended to address the issue of rudeness in more detail in its next report.

Of the complaints received by the regulator’s Complaints and Resolutions Unit in the period to early September, 96 were deemed inadmissible, and 23 were withdrawn.

A further 50 complaints were resolved informally with the assistance of the authority’s staff during what is called the pre-admissibility stage.

At the end of the period, 436 of the complaints received were still being investigated.

“The Complaints and Resolutions Unit received a total of 1,271 phone calls and emails during the six-month period requesting information and/or complaint forms,” the authority said in a statement.

“Among the areas of legal services complained about were wills and probate, litigation, conveyancing, and family law.”

In his comments accompanying the report, the LSRA chief executive, Brian Doherty, said the themes that emerged in the period covered by the first report were now more firmly established.

“Communication is again a key feature of most complaints. Complainants continually raise the issue that they were not adequately informed by their legal practitioner as to the cost and time or the risks involved in taking or defending legal proceedings.”

Problems with probates and wills continued to feature, as did complaints about the non-payment of barristers’ fees by solicitors.

Mr Doherty noted that the staff, many of whom are newly-recruited, had dealt with the complaints despite working remotely from home because of the Covid-19 situation.