4 - What happens next?
- When we receive your completed form we analyse it to make sure your complaint is one which we can consider. If the Society considers that your complaint can properly be dealt with under its complaints procedures, it will acknowledge receipt of the complaint and send a copy of the complaint form and supporting documents to the solicitor.
- On receiving the solicitor's reply, it will be copied to you for comment. Occasionally, further information may then be required from the solicitor or from you.
- Once we think we have all we need, the case may be concluded.
- We will provide an opinion on the relevant aspects of the complaint and, if appropriate, the solicitor may be directed to take certain action to assist you within the terms of the Solicitors' (NI) Order 1976 as amended.
- In the unusual event of your solicitor failing to co-operate with the Society's investigation, disciplinary action may be taken and you will be advised to immediately seek alternative legal advice. Should that situation arise, more detailed information will be provided.
- Where you are complaining about a current case with your solicitor, we try at every stage to resolve misunderstandings, maintain the relationship and restore lines of communication between you and your solicitor.
- Where your complaint is about a case which is concluded, we will express an opinion on the solicitor's conduct and/or service in relation to the issues raised in your complaint form and if appropriate may be able to provide a remedy.
Circumstances when the Law Society is unable to help
- We are unable to give you legal advice or a second opinion on the legal advice you have already received. If you are unhappy with advice received or disagree with it, you will have to obtain a second opinion from another solicitor.
- We cannot adjudicate on complicated issues of fact or law, or comment on the outcome of your court case.
- We do not have the power to order your solicitor to pay compensation to you for professional negligence. *(See NOTE).
- We are unable to compel a solicitor to take on your case if s/he does not want to do so.
- We cannot tell your solicitor how to handle your case or maintain a monitoring role on your case.
- We do not have the power to investigate a complaint about other branches of the legal profession such as District Judges, Lay Magistrates, Barristers and County Court or High Court Judges.
- We cannot investigate a complaint if the work done by the solicitor is under a practising certificate issued in another country eg in England, Wales, Scotland or the Republic of Ireland. (You should contact the Law Society in the relevant jurisdiction).
- We cannot investigate complaints about solicitors who are not doing legal work.
- We cannot investigate and provide redress where you are complaining about someone else's solicitor. (You should discuss any concerns with your own solicitors).
Where your complaint involves both inadequate service and allegations of negligence, then the negligence claim should be concluded before the complaint is pursued. Often the facts which give rise to negligence are the same as those which give rise to the complaint to the Society and if the negligence claim is resolved successfully in your favour, it may not always be appropriate.
* Negligence is generally a mistake made by your solicitor which causes you as the client to suffer financial loss. If you believe your solicitor has actednegligently and you wish to pursue a claim, you can do so by instructing another solicitor to pursue the matter through the Courts on your behalf.
Administration of estates
We can investigate a complaint from you if you are the personal representative, including if your status is as co-executor with one of the solicitors in the firm handling the estate. As the personal representative, you are the solicitor's client and the only person who can complain about the solicitor's service or conduct. You have the legal responsibility of ensuring that the deceased's estate is properly wound up. You will be either the nominated executor in the deceased's will, or if the deceased did not make a will, you are the next of kin.
However, if you are a beneficiary and you have concerns about how an estate is progressing you should contact the personal representative and if they share your views you should ask them to complain to the Society. If the personal representative does not agree that there is a problem, then you will have to obtain advice from your own solicitor. The one exception to this rule is where the solicitor is acting solely as the executor, without an independent executor. In that case we will ask the solicitor to provide information to enable you to decide whether you need to take advice from your own solicitor.
To find out what will happen after your complaint has been investigated and a decision made please click below: