Scottish Legal Complaints Commission

2nd December 2009

Originally reported on Scottish Legal News.

The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) has issued its first guidance to the professional bodies to ensure legal firms tell their clients about the commission at the earliest opportunity and also notified them of a change to the SLCC rules.

The guidance states that practitioners should ensure that clients, or others, who may wish to express dissatisfaction with a practitioner or firm, should be advised of the SLCC as the appropriate gateway for complaints at an appropriate time.

The SLCC has also asked the Law Society of Scotland, Faculty of Advocates and Association of Commercial Attorneys to issue the guidance to their members so every practitioner member of each of the professional bodies has one point of reference for all professional guidance.

SLCC chair, Jane Irvine, said: "The SLCC has the power to issue guidance on complaints handling and we wanted to ensure firms and advocates informed their clients where to take their complaint if it cannot be resolved.

"The guidance should ensure clients are best served and allow practitioners to make use of the SLCC complaint system, where appropriate, rather than taking up practitioner time where a dispute is not resolved at source.

"We are suggesting practitioners should tell clients about the SLCC at appropriate times.

"This may be when they issue a letter of engagement or as a complaint arises or at the point an internal complaint system concludes without resolution but it is for the practitioners to determine the appropriate time."

She added: "We recognise the SLCC is a second tier complaint system and practitioners must have the opportunity to resolve complaints in the first instance - and we hope they continue to do this - we will however, monitor how well practitioners are adhering to the guidance."

The SLCC rules have been updated to reflect its experience of complaint handling over the last year and the amendments will enable it to be more flexible in its approach.

In particular, under the old rules, it was mandatory that a complaint be dealt with by a practitioner before the SLCC would investigate it.

Ms Irvine said: "This has changed to allow us, in exceptional circumstances, to accept some complaints directly without the need for the practitioner to have first looked at them; for example, where a serious allegation of misconduct is made.

"We feel this is a very important change for both consumers and practitioners as it recognises that there may be exceptional situations where further dialogue between them is not desirable."

Renfrewshire Law Centre already advises clients of the oppotunity of making complaints to this body at the outset of their instructing us.