Property buyers should also be able to complain about sellers solicitor
Victims of crime and witnesses at trials should be able to complain to LeO about the behaviour of defence or prosecution lawyers, the legal services consumer panel has said.
In its report on third-party complaints published this morning, the consumer panel also said property buyers should be able to complain not only about their solicitor but about the seller’s solicitor.
However, the panel did draw the line at allowing an “embittered ex-husband” to complain about a lawyer acting for his former wife.
The panel admitted that under its plans third parties would have the right to complain directly to LeO, while clients would have to exhaust their firms’ in-house complaints procedures.
It claimed that giving third parties a right of redress would not “give consumers new legal rights, but simply extend existing rights to redress beyond the courts”.
The panel went on: “It would bring the legal ombudsman in line with practice in some other jurisdictions and with procedures adopted by ombudsmen in some other key service sectors, such as financial services, surveying and estate agency and utilities.
“Since it will be impossible for the Legal Ombudsman to foresee all possible legitimate third-party complaints, our preferred option is to make all third-party complaints eligible, using the definition of a consumer in the Legal Services Act, except for specific types of cases that would be excluded.”
The panel said that “legal work intended to benefit consumers”, such as a remortgage arranged by a lender, or work referred to a law firm by an unregulated business, should be covered.
Also on the panel’s list were “hounding tactics” by lawyers acting for corporate clients, such as the ones sent to alleged file sharers, beneficiaries who suffered as a result of defective wills and lawyers working on matters concerning groups of people, such as leaseholders wanting to enfranchise or unsecured creditors.
“If you’ve experienced poor legal services and suffered detriment then you should be able to obtain a remedy,” Elisabeth Davies, chair of the consumer panel, said.
“It’s wrong that some consumers cannot currently complain to the Legal Ombudsman due to technicalities which they don’t even know about.
“While in some situations the case for giving third parties the right to complain is clear cut, in other circumstances, such as the treatment of victims and witnesses, the arguments are more finely balanced.”