2012 has seen an alarming increase in the number of professional negligence claims brought by clients against their previous solicitor. Cases of professional negligence involving solicitors often result from a claimant’s case being undervalued and consequently under-settled by the law firm representing them.
However, that is by no means the only reason. Some firms provide legal advice which simply does not pass muster. Clients may have been subjected to shoddy service where their previous legal representative lacked the required experience to deal with a complex matter. Sometimes firms fail to act in their clients’ best interests by settling claims or completing other work in a self-serving way. Worse still, some clients are reported to have fallen victim to a scam in which unqualified handlers undertake work on their behalf.
Of course, it is important to keep the matter in perspective; the vast majority of legal firms are reputable and provide good quality, appropriate legal advice. However, a small minority of firms are giving the profession a bad name, causing professional negligence cases to rise to rise significantly.
How can you spot when a solicitor firm has been negligent?
Solicitors, like any other advisory business, are there to provide a service. If that service is not provided adequately or you feel you have been unfairly prejudiced by the solicitor acting for you, then you should instruct a different solicitor to act in that matter and seek independent legal advice as to whether you have a claim against your previous solicitor on the grounds of professional negligence.
In order to decide whether your previous legal adviser has been negligent, their conduct will be measured against that of a similar legal professional. Expert evidence may be sought from a lawyer in the same field to prove that the actions of the defendant solicitor were unsatisfactory.
Examples of a negligent conduct by a solicitor include them missing a crucial deadline which results in a failed claim or extra costs being incurred, or if you are incorrectly advised as to whether you have a valid claim when you first consult them.
Top tips choosing an appropriate solicitor
1. Choose a solicitor you can see on a face-to-face basis and ensure they offer you regular contact.
2. Recommendations can be useful. Ask friends and relatives who have used the services of a solicitor in the past.
3. Research the best firm to handle your case; the Internet is an invaluable tool for this.
4. If you’re unsure about a solicitor’s specialism in a certain field, ask if they hold any accreditations.
Depending on the circumstances, the Legal Ombudsman may also investigate your complaint.
St Helens based solicitors Hattons Law provide expert legal advice and support for a full range of legal services including professional negligence claims.