The stages to the SLCC complaints process are as follows:
The SLCC assesses whether a complaint against a legal practitioner is eligible, the criteria for which depends on the type of complaint being made. If the complaint is about the service provided by a solicitor then the SLCC will serve notice on the practitioner. If the complaint concerns the conduct of a practitioner then notice is served on both the complainer and the practitioner and the complaint is forwarded on to the relevant professional body who will conduct an investigation. The SLCC has no further involvement in the complaint at this stage of the complaints process.
Mediation is offered for most services complaints. It is not available for conduct complaints. Both parties must agree to mediation for it to take place. If one party does not want to mediate then the complaint is passed to a Case Investigator (CI). The purpose of the mediation is to try to come to a fair and reasonable agreement with both parties. There is no charge for the service and it is confidential throughout. If the parties can agree a resolution then the SLCC will not consider the complaint any further. The Mediation Manager will write to both parties to confirm the resolution and check that any timescales set or agreed between the parties are adhered to.
If mediation is not successful in resolving the complaint then the Mediation Manager will give notice to both parties that the CI will now make their investigations into the complaint.
It may take several months for the case to be allocated to a CI. Once allocated the CI will assess the evidence available and may make further enquiries if they feel it is necessary to obtain more information. These further enquiries may include examining the practitioner’s files, asking for further information or approaching others for more information.
The CI will usually set out their findings and recommendations in a report. If both parties accept the finding and recommendations of the CI then the complaint will be closed. However, if one or the other does not accept the CI’s report or fails to respond then the complaint is referred to the Members of the Commission for a final decision on the complaint.
Complaints that cannot be resolved are determined by Members who decide whether or not to uphold the complaint against the practitioner. If they decide that it is to be upheld, they will also decide the amount of compensation, if any, to be made, what action is to be taken and by whom.
The SLCC determines complaints in Committees of three, five, seven or nine Members. The majority of Committee members are always lay members. The Committees decide whether more information is required, or whether there should be a hearing where both the complainant and the practitioner would give information in person to the Committee.
After investigating the complaint, the SLCC may decide to impose penalties on you. They may ask you to:
1. Reduce/refund the fees
2. Re-do or rectify mistakes
3. Make an award to the complainer for up to £20,000
4. Pay a complaint levy
The SLCC may report you to the relevant professional body. The determination of the Committee is final and the only form of appeal is to the Court of Session.