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Law Society (Handling of Complaints)

Volume 570: debated on Tuesday 12 November 2013

10. What assessment he has made of the prevalence of mishandling by the Law Society of complaints against solicitors. (901038)

The Law Society is one of 10 approved regulators for which the Legal Services Board has oversight responsibility. It is independent of the Government. The Solicitors Regulation Authority is responsible for investigating alleged breaches of its conduct principles.

I raise this question because my constituent Paul Cowdrey now risks losing his home because the Law Society advised him that if he raised his complaint he would not be liable for costs. He has now been ordered to pay more than £100,000 to the solicitor whom he complained about. The Solicitors Regulation Authority condemned the solicitor’s actions as morally reprehensible, but claimed it was unable to take action. Does the Minister agree that a regulator that is unable to prevent solicitors from abusing their position is not fit for purpose, and will he investigate this case on behalf of my constituent?

I am well aware that this is an ongoing case about which the hon. Gentleman corresponded with my predecessor. However, the legal regulators and the legal ombudsman are independent of the Government and neither the Justice Secretary nor any of his Ministers have the power to intervene and it would be inappropriate for us to do so in any individual case. The hon. Gentleman’s constituent, Mr Cowdrey, needs to take independent legal advice.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the primary role of the Law Society is to represent solicitors, and that the proper channel for consumer complaints is the Legal Ombudsman?

Various channels are available for those dealing with the conduct of solicitors, as well as the service provided by them. Yes, there is provision and appropriate methods that need to be pursued.