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Scottish law society threatens court action on legal complaints

14th Dec 2016

The Law Society of Scotland could go to court in a battle with the solicitor complaints-handler over the division of powers between them.

The representative body revealed that it has started legal action to challenge steps taken by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC).

The SLCC acts as the gateway for which body handles complaints: the SLCC passes on conduct issues to the Law Society, whilst it handles service issues itself.

In August, the Court of Session ruled the SLCC’s practice of classifying an issue as both service- and conduct-related was unlawful. However, since then the Law Society of Scotland has argued that the SLCC has recategorised 200 complaints already in the system to class them as ‘service-only’, which has effectively removed the society from the disciplinary process.

The society now wants clarity from the courts about these recategorised cases, as well as about the principle of recategorisation itself.

Eilidh Wiseman, president of the Law Society of Scotland, said that the SLCC “wants to recategorise around 200 complaints already referred to us as conduct matters. Reclassifying complaints as service-only means we cannot investigate and, if needed, pursue action against a solicitor to the independent discipline tribunal.”

“As the body entrusted by parliament to protect the public interest and uphold standards, we cannot allow this to happen,” she continued.

Rules state that a conduct complaint is about a practitioner’s behaviour, their fitness to carry out work and how they have behaved either in carrying out a transaction or outside of business. A service complaint is about the quality of work a solicitor has carried out during the course of a transaction.

For service complaints, decisions will result in refunds or compensation for clients; in conduct matters, sanctions can include suspending a solicitor or striking them off the role.