Complaints Procedure

How to complain about a lawyer

Fortunately, it is very rare for SFE to receive a complaint about any of our members.  SFE has no remit to investigate complaints in relation to our members and their clients. However, if you are not happy with the service you received from a member, you should begin by using the firm’s internal complaints' procedure, which every firm operates.

A few points to note:

  • The firm should have informed you at the outset, of its internal complaints procedure
  • You should be told who to inform in the event of such a problem.  This may be the lawyer handling your case. It may be the senior partner, principal with overall responsibility for the matter or another person within the practice nominated for the purpose.  It could be someone outside the firm altogether
  • The procedure should ensure that any complaint is investigated promptly and thoroughly and that an explanation of the investigation is given to the you and any appropriate is action taken
  • You should be given details in writing of the firm’s response to your complaint.  If you are not satisfied (or if there is any doubt) you should be given information about the Legal Ombudsman and the Solicitors' Regulation Authority also has useful information.

Common misconceptions of what might amount to a complaint

  • Not giving access to the Will of a mentally incapacitated client
  • All lawyers must uphold their duty of confidentiality even where the client has lost mental capacity. Unless the client gave authority to release details of the Will prior to his or her death, the only way to gain access is though a court order from the Court of Protection.
  • Not communicating with a family member
  • Where a person instructs a lawyer to act on his or her behalf, the lawyer is duty bound to keep the matter confidential and not discuss it with anyone else, unless authority has been given by the client.

Complaint to a Regulatory Body / The Legal Ombudsman

If a complaint has already been made to the member's regulatory body, SFE will not undertake any enquiries until the outcome of that process has been completed and notified to us.  Following a decision by the member’s regulatory body, SFE will consider the nature of the complaint and the outcome. In the most serious of cases, we could remove the individual from the membership of our organisation.

To make a complaint to SFE

We will investigate any breach of our code of practice. If you believe that a breach has taken place, then you will need to fill in a complaint form. SFE is not a Court and does not have any power of investigation. We have no right to access confidential information about the matter and therefore rely on you to provide the relevant information, setting out the nature and detail of the complaint. 

If your complaint has been upheld by either the firm or the Legal Ombudsman, please provide us with any relevant correspondence.

Once the complaint is received by our administrator, it is passed to the director of membership and discipline who will seek a detailed report of the matter from the member. The director of membership and discipline will consider whether there has been any breach and identify the appropriate course of action to be taken. This could include a warning or in serious cases, removal of membership.

To download a copy of the complaints form click here