Wednesday, 10 February 2021
Appointment of Member of the Legal Services Regulatory Authority: Motion
The Legal Services Regulatory Authority is the body responsible for processing allegations of wrongdoing against solicitors and barristers, but it should do more than that. It received an average of more than four complaints per day in its first six months of work. According to its annual report up to September 2020, the authority received 636 complaints concerning lawyers between 7 October 2019 and 6 March 2020. Of these, 633 related to solicitors while only three were about barristers, who typically do not deal directly with the public. There were 342 complaints concerning alleged misconduct, including 42 complaints alleging fraud or dishonesty. There were 238 complaints relating to allegedly inadequate services and 56 relating to overcharging. The authority expressed concerns about the number of allegations of solicitors failing to complete undertakings and stated that some complaints related to undertakings that were over a decade old.
These are the facts. I have plenty of constituents who have had tough times with solicitors and felt vulnerable in their hands. One lady who came to my office had bought a house that was structurally unsound. She had been pushed from one solicitor to another because there was a so-called conflict of interest. This went on for many years. To this day, she is still in a battle to keep her home. Another constituent went through a legal separation. The fees that person was charged would have gone a good part of the way to buying a house. I have also dealt with a case where a person was wronged by her solicitor concerning her house. My staff and I spent days trying to contact other solicitors the length and breadth of Ireland to take what was a legitimate case, but there was no way one solicitor would take a case against another.
There must be a full and transparent way for a client to see the charges before any work is carried out as opposed to the idea of sitting down with a solicitor who then simply charges whatever he or she wants. That is highly irregular in today's world and would not be accepted in any other business. More transparency is needed. The idea that solicitors can do what they want and get away with it needs to be done away with. I am not saying that all solicitors are like that, but there is a certain percentage in every profession who are disdainful. I welcome the Legal Services Regulatory Authority and I encourage it to help clients who have been hard done by solicitors.