The legal profession in England and Wales is a diverse one, comprising not only solicitors, but also barristers, licensed conveyancers, chartered legal executives and patent attorneys, amongst others. Generically, we refer to these professionals as ‘lawyers’.
Common mistakes by negligent solicitors
While the legal sector is extremely well regulated and strives to deliver the high standards of service rightly expected of it, sadly, mistakes are not uncommon. This is due in part to both the size of the sector and the sheer volume of activity it undertakes on a daily basis.
Some common mistakes that can give rise to successful claims against solicitors and other lawyers are:
- Failing to identify and/or advise as to the existence of a right of way or restriction over property
- Failing to register an interest in, or right over, development land
- Failing to comply with the strict time limit imposed on a conveyancing transaction
- Failing to advise fully on the rent provisions within a lease
- Failing to advise on the requirements for executing a valid will
- Failing to include an intended beneficiary or specific gift within a will
- Failing to issue court proceedings correctly or within a prescribed deadline
- Failing to comply with an order or direction issued by the court
- Failing to take any or any proper account of the value of assets, particularly pensions, when compromising divorce proceedings
Even where a mistake is made by a negligent solicitor or other lawyer instructed by someone else, if financial loss is suffered as a consequence, a claim for compensation can still be made in appropriate circumstances. This is explained in more detail in our article: Third party claims for professional negligence
How to sue a solicitor or other lawyer
Most claims against solicitors and other lawyers are commenced by correspondence and by following the procedures set out in the Professional Negligence Pre-Action Protocol. While in some cases it may also be necessary to institute court proceedings, a considerable number of claims are resolved without the need to do so.
Answers to many of the practical questions we frequently get asked about making a claim are set out in our guide: Professional negligence claims: Your key questions answered
Assessing the merits of a claim
It is not in every case where financial loss arises that a professional will be held responsible and before embarking on any claim against a solicitor or other lawyer, a careful assessment will need to be undertaken of a number of important issues, including:
- The scope of the legal duties owed by the solicitor or lawyer
- Any actions taken by the solicitor or lawyer to comply with those duties
- The nature and extent of the loss caused by any breaches of those duties
This can be a complicated process and the merits of each claim will often depend on the background events that give rise to it.
Where a solicitor or lawyer is found to be negligent financial compensation, usually in the form of ‘damages’, can be recovered for a wide range of losses. Using case examples, we identify and explain many of the different types of compensation awards available in our guide: Compensation for professional negligence: What can I recover?
Even if the firm or practice at fault is no longer trading or has been dissolved, it may still be possible to make a claim and recover compensation. The support available to claimants in these circumstances is explained in our article: Claims against closed professional firms and practices
Time limits for suing a solicitor or other lawyer
There are a number of important reasons for acting promptly when a mistake has been made or discovered. One of these are the time limits that apply to all professional negligence claims. These time limits, some of which are easy to miscalculate, are explained in our introductory guide: Time limits for professional negligence claims – FAQs
Fee disputes and service complaints
Fees are one of the most common causes of dispute between solicitors and their clients. If a mistake made by a solicitor causes significant unnecessary, additional or abortive fees to be incurred, this may well justify a claim for professional negligence. However, this is not always the most appropriate means by which to challenge a solicitor’s fees, as we explain in more detail in our guide: Disputing solicitors’ fees – A client’s guide
Where disputes between lawyers and clients arise from poor service, rather than as a result of a mistake that has caused a financial loss or liability, a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman may be more appropriate than pursing a claim for professional negligence. This is explained in more detail in our guide: Legal Ombudsman Complaints Service – An independent guide
Specialist legal advice
As professional negligence specialists, we act for clients nationwide to resolve claims against a wide range of professionals, including solicitors and other lawyers. As you can discover here, the service and advice we provide to our clients is unique in a number of important respects.
If you would like to arrange an initial consultation with us, free of charge or commitment, please do not hesitate to contact us on 0800 195 4983 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.