Reflections from the Commission
An update on the SLCC’s plans to publish decisions, and a new support service for client relations managers
Earlier in 2015, the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission took the decision to publish determination decisions and, towards the end of December, we will publish decisions made in the quarter July-September 2015. It is our intention to publish these decisions on a quarterly basis from now on, as we believe this is useful information for both potential complainers (in terms of expectation management) and practitioners (in terms of highlighting good/not-so-good practice).
While we hope that this will also demonstrate better accountability and the transparency of our complaint handling process, we needed to balance that transparency with our duty to protect the confidentiality of complainers and practitioners. Unlike our counterparts south of the border, our legislation prevents us from “naming and shaming” individual solicitors or firms without their express permission unless the complaint is unusual and it is in the public interest to publish. Very few, if any, inadequate service complaints meet those criteria.
For these reasons, we have chosen to publish anonymous complaint information in the form of very short case studies and have, as far as possible, removed any identifying features. As such, the complaint information is only a brief summary of the information made available to the determination committee. In making decisions, consideration will have been given to specific facts and circumstances which, again for reasons of confidentiality, cannot be provided publicly.
We hope, however, that the published information is sufficient to provide general guidance to the profession and that it will help promote best practice in the provision of legal services.
At the same time as publishing our first set of decisions, we will launch a new quarterly newsletter specifically aimed at providing practical and topical support for client relations managers.
The newsletter will contain regular best practice features, guest articles and prior notice of future CPD events, and will provide comment on some of the trends and features emerging from the previous quarter’s published decisions.
Although aimed at client relations managers, we hope that this publication will be of value to anyone who is involved in promoting better client relations.
You can sign up to receive the newsletter by using the link: www.scottishlegalcomplaints.org.uk/for-practitioners/crm-newsletter.aspx
David Buchanan-Cook is head of oversight at the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission. Oversight is the area of the SLCC responsible for overseeing how the professional bodies deal with conduct complaints; monitoring and reporting trends in complaints; and producing guidance and best practice notes on complaint handling.
First decision summaries published
The following item first appeared on Journal online following publication of the first decision summaries referred to in the SLCC’s article
Twelve case summaries in the first of its promised quarterly releases on determinations in client complaints against solicitors have been published by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.
The cases chosen are six where the complaint was upheld and six where it was not. Outcomes in the cases decided against the solicitor range from no sanction (as no loss, inconvenience or distress was caused), to compensation awards for inconvenience and distress, and for actual loss, along with a fee refund and a £2,000 complaints levy.
Little detail is given of the transactions in question other than an outline of the complaint or complaints and the determination on each. However in one case a firm was held not liable for the actions of a solicitor who had moved on, and the solicitor was found personally liable instead.
Complaints not upheld were due to lack of evidence, or because the firm had acted in accordance with instructions, or the solicitor had exercised professional judgment.
The summaries can be accessed at the Making a complaint/Complaint examples section of the SLCC’s website www.scottishlegalcomplaints.org.uk