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Watchdog directs attorneys to indemnify clients who have received inadequate service

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A number of lawyers have been ordered to reimburse excessive fees or compensate clients for inadequate services after the Legal Services Inspectorate intervened.

In one case, a personal injury lawyer decided to reimburse a client €2,000 in legal costs before the regulator had decided on her complaint.

Details of the payments were released in a report by the Legal Services Regulatory Authority (LSRA), which revealed a significant increase in complaints against lawyers.

According to the report, 822 complaints were received by the agency between September 2021 and March this year.

The volume of complaints rose by a fifth compared to the previous six months.

About 799 related to lawyers and 23 to lawyers.

Many complaints were either resolved or found inadmissible early in the complaints process.

Of 342 complaints that were closed in a pre-admissibility phase, 225 were resolved by the parties with the support of the LSRA before a decision was made.

A total of 376 complaints were found inadmissible after a preliminary examination.

However, several examples of cases in which the LSRA eventually issued orders were listed. In one case where the regulator found excessive legal fees, the lawyer was ordered to waive €2,000 in fees.

In another complaint, relating to the inadequate provision of legal services, the practitioner was ordered to hand over the file to another lawyer and pay compensation of €2,000.

Following a further complaint of inadequate services, a practitioner was ordered to complete the matter as agreed, but also to waive all fees and pay the client compensation of €2,500.

In another case, a lawyer was ordered to pay a client €500 in compensation and a €2,000 refund after the fees were found to be excessive.

One complaint received by the LSRA concerned a woman who settled a personal injury claim for an agreed sum and a contribution to her legal fees.

However, the costs reimbursed by the defendant were missing €2,000, which was finally invoiced to the client.

She complained to the LSRA that the attorney should have obtained her approval before accepting a contribution to costs, leaving her obliged to pay the balance.

The lawyer eventually offered to reimburse the complainant for the €2,000 in costs that were charged before the LSRA made a decision on the complaint.

“Full informed consent from the client should be obtained before paying the defendant’s cost contribution if you are seeking a shortfall from the client,” the LSRA warned attorneys in the report.

According to the report, breakdowns in communications were a key feature of most complaints.

In one case, a lawyer was ordered to pay a client €1,000 in compensation after failing to give advance notice of the costs involved in buying a property.

When complaints about communication were raised, they often related to long delays in responding to inquiries or instructions.

“A client of a lawyer should not be able to complain to the LSRA just to find out what is going on in court cases in which he is a party,” the report said.

The regulator also said it was encountering an increasing number of complaints about outstanding obligations.

A commitment is a legally binding promise to do or not to do something.

Lawyers routinely pledge to financial institutions that they are responsible for certain matters related to their clients’ purchase of real estate. This could be the stamping and registration of the transaction to provide the necessary security for the mortgage.

Around 209 complaints were received relating to outstanding commitments, compared to 134 in the previous six-month reporting period.

https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/news/watchdog-directs-solicitors-to-compensate-clients-who-received-inadequate-service-41530904.html Watchdog directs attorneys to indemnify clients who have received inadequate service

Fry Electronics Team

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