1,599 complaints filed against lawyers, says legal services watchdog

Almost 1,600 complaints were made against barristers and solicitors in Ireland last year, an increase of 12% on the previous year.

The Legal Services Regulatory Authority (LSRA) revealed that its Complaints, Resolutions and Inquiries department received a total of 3,356 phone calls and emails during the year requesting information and forms for complaint.

The LSRA is the independent statutory body responsible for regulating the provision of legal services.

Its annual report shows that a total of 1,599 complaints were received against lawyers in 2021.

The annual report shows that a total of 1,599 complaints were received against lawyers in 2021 (Alamy)

Of these, 1,560 involved lawyers while 39 involved lawyers, although several complaints may be made against a particular lawyer.

A total of 1,343 complaints were closed in 2021.

Of these, 398 have been resolved and 172 have been withdrawn. Just under half – 615 complaints – were dismissed because they were deemed inadmissible following a statutory assessment.

The largest category of complaints, at 1,090, related to alleged misconduct.

Of the 1,090 complaints of alleged misconduct, 352 concerned non-compliance with a commitment made to a colleague or a financial institution and 297 concerned behavior likely to bring the profession into disrepute.

Another 108 related to failure to deliver records or other deeds and documents, 91 related to failure to communicate, 71 related to alleged fraud or dishonesty, and 62 related to alleged failure to account for client money.

A total of 431 were from clients regarding allegedly inadequate standards of legal services, and another 78 were from clients who alleged they were charged excessive fees.

Although the number of complaints received continues to increase, the breakdown of the types of complaints received shows a consistent trend.

Complaints about alleged misconduct continue to rise, up 33% from the previous year, those about allegedly inadequate standards of legal services and excessive costs continue to decline, down 13% and 27% respectively.

The annual report provides a breakdown of complaints received during the year based on the location of the offices of legal practitioners against whom complaints were made.

Of a total of 1,599 complaints received in 2021, 592 were against lawyers based in Dublin City and County, while 205 were in Cork City and County, 83 in Kildare and 82 in Limerick.

The LSRA maintains the Practicing Lawyers Roster, a searchable online registry of all lawyers licensed to provide legal services in the state that was established on December 28, 2018.

The list of practicing lawyers is an important tool that allows members of the public to be assured that the lawyer who provides legal services on their behalf is legally entitled to do so.

A total of 2,933 lawyers were registered as of December 31, 2021.

This is an increase of 110 over the previous year. Of these, 2,180 were members of the law library and 753 practiced outside the law library.

LSRA Chief Executive Dr Brian Doherty said: ‘The year under review was the LSRA’s second full year of operation as an independent complaints body for barristers and lawyers.

“As this report shows, our complaints staff handled an increased number of inquiries and complaints during this period.

“Complaints are closed for several reasons; when they have been successfully resolved between the parties with the assistance of the LSRA, determined by the LSRA, or by one of the two committees established under the Act.

“Complaints are also filed early in the complaints process if they are deemed inadmissible.

“Our handling of complaints during the year is based on the sustained efforts of staff to improve efficiency and refine processes while maintaining the highest standards of service to consumers of legal services and legal practitioners.

“The fact that these results have been achieved in just two years after the LSRA became responsible for handling complaints, and in the difficult context of the current Covid-19 restrictions, is a testament to the resilience and dedication of the team of complaints.”

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