1,599 complaints filed against lawyers, according to Legal Services Oversight

Nearly 1,600 complaints against solicitors and barristers were filed in Ireland last year, up 12% from the previous year.

The Legal Services Regulatory Authority (LSRA) said its Complaints, Decisions and Investigations division received a total of 3,356 phone calls and emails during the year requesting information and complaint forms.

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

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

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Annual Report Shows A Total Of 1,599 Complaints Received Against Attorneys In 2021 (Alamy)

Of these, 1,560 concerned solicitors and 39 concerned barristers, although numerous complaints may be made against individual legal practitioners.

In total, 1,343 complaints were closed in 2021.

Of these, 398 were allowed and 172 were withdrawn. Just under half—615 complaints—were closed because they were found inadmissible after a statutory assessment.

The largest category of complaints (1090) concerned alleged misconduct.

Of the 1,090 complaints of alleged misconduct, 352 concerned a failure to fulfill an obligation given to a colleague or financial institution, and 297 concerned conduct that could damage the reputation of the profession.

Another 108 cases concerned the failure to transfer a file or other acts and documents, 91 – due to a refusal to communicate, 71 – alleged fraud or dishonesty, and 62 – alleged failure to account for the client’s money.

A total of 431 cases were received from clients in connection with alleged inadequate standards of legal services, and another 78 were received from clients who claimed they were being charged excessive fees.

Although the number of complaints received continues to grow, there is a steady trend in the breakdown by type of complaints received.

Complaints relating to alleged misconduct continue to rise, up 33% year-over-year, complaints related to alleged inadequate standards of legal services and excessive costs continue to fall, down 13% and 27% respectively.

The annual report provides a breakdown of the complaints received during the year according to the location of the legal practitioners’ offices against which the complaints were filed.

Of a total of 1,599 complaints received in 2021, 592 were filed against legal practitioners from the City and County of Dublin, 205 from the City and County of Cork, 83 from Kildare and 82 from Limerick.

As can be seen from this report, during this time our Complaints Officers have handled an increased number of both inquiries and complaints.Dr. Brian Doherty

The LSRA maintains a List of Practicing Barristers, a searchable online registry of all barristers eligible to provide legal services in the state, which was created on December 28, 2018.

The List of Practicing Barristers is an important tool for members of the public to be sure that a barrister performing legal services on their behalf is legally entitled to do so.

As of December 31, 2021, there were 2,933 lawyers on the list.

This is 110 more than a year earlier. Of these, 2,180 were members of the Law Library and 753 practiced outside the Law Library.

LSRA Executive Director Dr. Brian Doherty said: “The reporting year was the second full year of the LSRA’s operation as an independent attorney and advocate complaints redress body.

“As you can see from this report, our Complaints Officers have handled a higher number of both inquiries and complaints during this time.

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

“Complaints are also closed early in the complaints process if they are found inadmissible.

“Our grievance handling throughout the year is based on staff’s ongoing efforts to improve efficiency and improve processes, and to maintain the highest standards of service for legal consumers and practitioners.

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