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Major rule changes on the way

1 July 04

Society seeks power to suspend solicitors who fail to respond to client complaint investigations, and plans further rules regarding letters of engagement and firms' client relations procedures

The Society has written to the Scottish Executive seeking additional legislative powers to enable it to suspend solicitors who fail to reply within set time limits to the Society about ongoing complaints.

It also wants new powers to discipline solicitors for unsatisfactory conduct not considered serious enough to warrant prosecution before the Discipline Tribunal for professional misconduct. Failing to send a “conflict of interest” letter where there is no detriment to the client could fall into this category.

These powers would also be relevant to the recent decision in principle by Council that letters of engagement will soon become compulsory for almost all areas of legal work. Solicitors will be required to give clients an outline of what their fees will be, the work agreed to be done, who will be working for them and with whom any concerns should be raised.

The Society also plans to require all firms to appoint a client relations partner and set up an internal complaints handling process.

Rules will now be referred for Council’s approval before being sent to the Lord President to be ratified.

These major changes result from the continuing programme of improvement which has already led to the streamlined system of complaints handling introduced last September. They also follow on recommendations made by the Justice 1 Committee and the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman.

The President’s column on page 7 of this issue comments on the changes and the reasons behind them.