Page last updated at 00:19 GMT, Thursday, 3 July 2008 01:19 UK

Solicitors oppose complaint plans

The scales of justice statue
Solicitors are unhappy with plans to publish complaints made against them

Many solicitors in England and Wales are opposing plans to publish details of complaints brought against them by their clients, a consultation suggests.

About 15,000 are made annually, one for every six professionals, but currently the public cannot know the details.

The independent Legal Complaints Service now wants to start publishing details of the most serious disputes where it is forced to adjudicate.

Professional body the Law Society says the plans are "ill-conceived".

The consultation exercise shows that although consumer groups want greater openness, the profession prefers better training and accreditation schemes instead.

The consumer groups want every firm's complaints made public.

People are often spending large amounts of money and only going to a solicitor once or twice in their life, so it's a very hard choice
Deborah Evans,
Legal Complaints Service

But the majority of solicitors are said to be against the scheme and the Law Society has called it an ill-conceived plan which would give an unfair picture.

Its chief executive, Des Hudson, says the new scheme will not work.

"We believe this to be an ill-conceived plan, we believe it to be dealing with a fraction of cases, we believe it to be a slanted and unfair picture, and against its purported benefit of helping consumers choose between good and not so good solicitors, it fails abysmally. It helps no-one."

Steve Brooker, from the National Consumer Council, believes the scheme does not go far enough.

He said: "What we would like to see is a complaint table that said how complaints had been received, then of those how many had no foundation, how many of those were conciliated and how many were adjudicative, so it's a very simple and easy to understand system for consumers to use and use that to exercise their power in the market place."

Deborah Evans, chief executive of the Legal Complaints Service, says it is time solicitors caught up with the demands of the consumer.

"People are often spending large amounts of money and only going to a solicitor once or twice in their life, so it's a very hard choice," she said.

"There is little information to compare, you can't do price comparison for example, and in the modern environment it is standing out as something that's really from a time past."

The Legal Complaints Service is part of the Law Society, but operates independently to handle complaints about solicitors.




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