At certain times in our lives, we require professional services from a solicitor. Unfortunately, sometimes these services are not up to the standard they should be.
If you have received poor advice or services from another solicitor, you might be wondering what you can do about it.
If you have experienced poor service, for example, delays in responding to you or issues with fees, you can invoke your solicitor’s complaints procedure and, if the complaint is not resolved to your satisfaction, you may be able to ask the Legal Ombudsman to undertake a review.
However, if you believe you have received negligent legal advice or your solicitor has made a mistake, you may have grounds to bring a claim against them for professional negligence.
When you instruct a solicitor they owe you, as their client, a contractual duty of care. Professional negligence is when a professional such as a solicitor fails to perform their responsibilities to the required standard and breaches their duty of care. For a successful claim, you must show that the service provided fell below the required standard and that their breach of duty of care caused your losses.
If you believe you have received negligent advice, we recommend the following initial steps:
- Retain and preserve any relevant documents
This may involve obtaining a copy of your file from the solicitor. They are obliged to provide the file (although they may have a right to withhold the file if you owe them outstanding fees). A first step would be to review the solicitor’s engagement letter (the contract with you) to understand the scope of their duty of care.
- Gather any financial losses caused as a result of the alleged negligence
Sometimes losses may take some time to crystalise but gathering as much information as possible is key. Even if your solicitor has made a mistake, unless you have suffered a loss as a result, which generally means a financial loss, you may not have a viable claim.
- Mitigate your losses
You have a duty to mitigate your losses – which means doing what you can to limit them, as a result of the breach of duty. Failure to do so, may mean that recovery is limited and you may need further legal advice on how to do this.
- Consider the limitation period for your claim.
Generally, for a contractual claim, you have six years from the date the right to bring the claim arose to issue Court proceedings. If you do not do so, this may give the solicitor a complete defence. In some cases, such as where you were not initially aware of the breach of duty of care, this deadline may be extended. It can often be difficult to establish the precise limitation date, and it is important to investigate as soon as you become aware of an issue and seek legal advice.