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CRO case study: requests for solicitors' files

15 August 05

Points to bear in mind when the Society requests a client file for the purpose of investigating a complaint

by Mary McGowan


In a recent case handled by the CRO, a client raised a complaint about firm A. At the same time, the client moved his business to firm B.

During the course of the CRO investigation it became clear that the Society would need to see solicitor B’s file. With the consent of the client, the CRO requested the file from firm B. Initially, firm B refused to do this because they were, by then, in dispute with their client over a fee and were exercising a lien over the file. Firm B also had a concern that the file would be given to the complainer, thus circumventing the lien.

There are a few interesting points arising from this:

  • The Society would only give the file obtained from one solicitor to another party if the solicitor consented.
  • The Society has a duty to investigate complaints properly. This might involve obtaining information over and above responses and the file of the solicitor complained against. In this way can the Society see the full picture.
  • Although the Society has no statutory authority to demand firm B’s file, the practical effect of refusing to release the file to the Society for investigation purposes would probably lead to a complaint from the client of failing to follow instructions.
  • If you have any concerns about delivering a file please ask us and we will be happy to guide you.

So, in practical terms, co-operation goes a long way to reduce inconvenience to the solicitor, their client and the Society.

Mary McGowan, Client Relations Office (0131 476 8172)