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You have the right to complain about a solicitor or advocate if you're unhappy with:
- the service they've given – such as delays, losing documents or disagreements about money
- the way they've conducted themselves – such as inappropriate behaviour or their ability to do their job
A solicitor can give you advice on your rights and can also represent you in court. Advocates specialise in advocacy (court work, and providing the related advice), and are experienced in particular areas of law.
You can complain about a solicitor or advocate even if you're getting legal aid (help with legal costs), or if they work at a law centre.
The process is different if your complaint is about the outcome of your case or a legal aid application. Your solicitor or advocate can tell you who to complain to.
You can also complain about someone else's solicitor or advocate if their poor service or behaviour has affected you.
You must complain within 12 months of when the service you're complaining about ended, or 12 months after the incident you're complaining about took place. If the work started on or after 1 April 2017, this period is extended to 3 years.
Complain to the solicitor or advocate, or their firm
Complain directly to the solicitor or advocate first. You may be able to resolve your concern by explaining that you're unhappy and giving them the opportunity to sort out the problem.
Contact the firm or the Advocate's Clerk if speaking to the solicitor or advocate does not resolve things or you feel uncomfortable raising the issue with them directly.
If your complaint is about a solicitor, the firm will have a client relations manager who will listen to your problem and try to resolve it. You can contact the firm and ask for the name of the client relations manager.
Complain to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC)
You can complain to the SLCC if you're unhappy with the solicitor or advocate's response or they have not got back to you. The SLCC is an independent body – it provides a free service which is fair and impartial.
You can usually only complain to the SLCC if you've already complained to the solicitor or advocate, or their firm, directly.
The SLCC decides how your complaint should be handled. This depends on whether your complaint is about:
- the service you received
- how the solicitor or advocate behaved
You do not need to know what type of complaint you have – the SLCC will decide this.
Complaints about service
The SLCC investigates complaints about a solicitor or advocate's service.
You might be offered mediation. This is when an impartial person talks through your issue with you and the solicitor or advocate. It can often be a quicker way of resolving your complaint.
The SLCC might decide to conduct a formal investigation. If they agree with your complaint, the investigator may recommend that the solicitor or advocate:
- refund their fees to you
- redo some work
- pay you compensation for any losses or inconvenience
If you or the solicitor or advocate disagree with the outcome of the investigation, a group of people called a 'determination committee' will review your case.
If you're unhappy with the SLCC's decision, you can appeal to the Court of Session. Citizen's Advice can help if you're considering making an appeal.
You must appeal within 28 days of when the SLCC made the decision.
Complaints about a solicitor's behaviour
The SLCC will refer your case to the Law Society of Scotland if you're complaining about a solicitor's behaviour.
The Law Society will investigate your case and decide what action to take. The solicitor may be:
- ordered to pay you compensation
- ordered to take part in training
If the case is serious the solicitor may be prosecuted before the Scottish Solicitors' Discipline Tribunal. The tribunal has a range of powers and can censure, suspend or strike off a solicitor in cases of misconduct.
If you're unhappy with the Law Society's decision, you can appeal to the Scottish Solicitors' Discipline Tribunal. This must be made within 21 days of the Law Society's decision.
If you're unhappy with how the Law Society handled your complaint – such as delays or not taking evidence into account – you can complain to the SLCC. This must be done within 6 months of when the decision was made.
Complaints about an advocate's behaviour
The SLCC will refer your case to the Faculty of Advocates if you're complaining about an advocate's behaviour.
If you're unhappy with the Faculty's decision, you can appeal to their Disciplinary Tribunal. You must write to the Dean's Secretariat within 14 days of when the decision was made.
If you're unhappy with how the Faculty of Advocates handled your complaint, you can complain to the SLCC. This must be done within 6 months of when the decision was made.
Help with your complaint
Contact Citizens Advice on 0808 800 9060 or visit a bureau for help about solicitor or advocate complaints or if you're appealing a decision made by the SLCC.
Shelter Scotland can help with complaints related to housing (for example, how a solicitor dealt with a case about council tax).
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