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Members: 03 March 2020

Legal Services Regulatory Authority Annual Report 2019 – New Complaints Regime Begins

Legal Services Regulatory Authority Annual Report 2019 – New Complaints Regime Begins

The Legal Services Regulatory Authority (LSRA) published its 2019 Annual Report on Tuesday 3 March 2020, which provides an overview of its performance and outputs for the year, including its new role in handling public complaints relating to solicitors and barristers.

The LSRA is the independent statutory body responsible for the regulation of legal services provision and it began receiving and investigating complaints about solicitors and barristers on 7th October 2019.

The Annual Report contains statistical data on complaints and early trends, including:

  • During the 12 week period from 7th October to the end of December 2019, the LSRA’s Complaints and Resolutions Unit received a total of 304 complaints (301 relating to solicitors and 3 relating to barristers).
  • A total of 141 complaints alleged inadequate standards of services, with 134 alleging misconduct and 29 relating to alleged excessive costs (overcharging).
  • The Complaints and Resolutions Unit received 954 phone calls and emails requesting information and/or complaint forms.
  • Among the areas of legal services complained about were wills and probate, litigation, conveyancing and family law.
  • A total of nine complaints in 2019 involved issues relating to alleged criminal activity, with the majority related to allegations made against what is suspected to be a bogus law firm. These were referred to An Garda Síochána.

LSRA Chief Executive Brian Doherty said:

“The LSRA had been expecting an early spike in complaints and that is exactly what we have experienced. It is still too early to point to particular trends in relation to the complaints we have received. However, allegations of poor communication between legal professionals and their clients is emerging as a strong feature across almost all complaints. Regular and timely communication with clients appears to be a key lesson for practitioners in preventing and settling complaints before they escalate.”

Brian Doherty added:

“While we are still in the very early days of the LSRA’s independent complaints handling regime, it is already heartening to see that both consumers and legal practitioners are engaging in a positive way with the new statutory provisions which, in some instances, is allowing for early and informal resolution of complaints. In April, we will produce the first of our six monthly detailed complaints reports which will provide insights into the areas of legal services provision that have attracted complaints.”

In November 2019, the LSRA introduced a new legal framework that authorises partnerships of solicitors to operate as Limited Liability Partnerships (LLPs).

This new business model is intended to put Ireland on a par with other jurisdictions and has the potential to increase competition in the legal services market, reduce professional indemnity insurance costs for LLPs, and consequently lower costs for consumers. 

By the end of 2019, 88 valid applications for LLP authorisation were submitted by legal firms, and 28 authorisations were issued by the LSRA.

The LSRA also maintains a public register of all barristers entitled to provide legal services in the State. The Roll of Practising Barristers is an important tool which allow members of the public to be assured that the barrister providing legal services on their behalf is lawfully entitled to do so. There were 2,735 barristers on the LSRA’s Roll of Practising Barristers at the end of 2019.

The LSRA Annual Report 2019 is available to view here.