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Make sure your lawyer is regulated - how do you know?

SRA Regulation

Relevant across multiple law types

You may be trusting your lawyer with a case of huge value or importance to you so it’s important to know where you may stand if things go wrong and how lawyers are regulated.

This blog is about regulation in England and Wales. There are different Regulators and rules in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The first point to make is that there are different types of lawyers, and they can have different Regulators. Solicitors are the most common and are usually regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). Barristers are usually regulated by the Bar Council and Licensed conveyancers are usually regulated by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC).

What most of these regulators have in common is a requirement for the lawyers that they regulate to meet certain professional standards, have compulsory insurance and a formal complaints system. Those are all significant benefits for consumers which is why it is always worth making sure that your lawyer is regulated.

Taking Solicitors regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) as the most numerous, they will be required to have passed certain examinations and a formal training process to call themselves solicitors. They are also required to undergo a process of continuing education and show the Regulator that they are keeping their legal knowledge up to date.

Compulsory insurance is also a key requirement for solicitors and protection for their clients. If something does go wrong and the solicitor has been professionally negligent then the insurers would step in and pay compensation. It is necessary to understand that in those circumstances the client would still have needed to sue the solicitor and prove professional negligence, but at least if the solicitor went bust or could not pay any compensation, the client knows that there are insurers behind them who can.

If you have reason to complain about a solicitor, they are required to have a complaint handling process and should have set out how to complain in the client care documentation that they gave you when you first instructed them. There is no requirement for complaints to be in writing. Ideally if you have concerns you should address them in the first instance with the solicitor handling your case who should try to resolve them. If that is not possible then you should adopt the firm’s complaints handling process and all firms should have a complaints partner who deals with those.

If, after following the firm’s complaints process, you are still not satisfied with the outcome then you can complain to the Legal Ombudsman which is an independent Ombudsman service set up to deal with complaints about legal service providers. Click here for more details about their service.

It is easy to find out whether a solicitor or solicitor’s firm is regulated by the SRA by checking on the SRA website. The SRA website will also tell you, amongst other things, what types of legal work a firm does and how many solicitors it employs.  It is worth noting, however, that all lawyers listed on are regulated by the SRA (as we take our data directly from the SRA database), so any searches you do here you can rest assured that they are indeed regulated.

If a solicitor or solicitors firm breaches their professional code of ethics, then they can be disciplined by the Solicitors Regulation Authority through the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal. You can find out about a solicitor or firms disciplinary record by looking on the SRA website. It is also possible to get more information on a specific disciplinary tribunal matter by looking at the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal website. Fortunately, most solicitors do not have disciplinary matters registered against them by the SRA or Tribunal.

Finally, there is The Law Society. This is the solicitor’s professional body or “trade union”. It is no longer responsible for regulating solicitors or dealing with complaints against them because those functions have now been passed to the SRA and Legal Ombudsman. However, it does have a section on its website which will give you more information about a solicitor or the firm they work including areas of practice, languages spoken and any specialist accreditations they have from the Law Society.

Specialist accreditations are quality marks issued by the Law Society to individuals or organisations when they have demonstrated an experience or expertise in a certain area of law. They are not any guarantee that the services offered are better than the same services offered by a solicitor who does not have those accreditations. However, they do indicate that the solicitor or organisation has been able to demonstrate a level of experience or expertise in the area required to meet the accreditation standard.