Understanding a solicitor's negligence


There are certain situations where the legal advice or representation provided by a solicitor may be negligent. It is difficult to outline with any precision what behaviour will constitute negligence by a solicitor - rather, each individual case must be judged based on past cases and court decisions.

Once a client decides to sue, solicitors who represent the client will need to prove that the client’s former solicitors fell below a standard of care that was owed to the client.

What is negligent behaviour?

If you have instructed a solicitor to advise you or to act for you, and you believe that your solicitor’s negligence has caused you to lose your case or to suffer other harm or loss, you may have a claim against your solicitor for professional negligence.

Negligence occurs when:

  • A person has a duty of care to another person
  • They fail to take reasonable care
  • As a result the other person suffers loss or harm

There are certain categories of relationship which the law imposes a higher standard of care. Thus, whilst for ordinary people the standard of care to be judged against is that of the reasonable person, for a professional the standard of care to be judged against is that of a reasonable, competent professional of similar experience and expertise.

Common types of behaviour which may constitute solicitors’ negligence include:

  • Missing a deadline or time limit
  • Missing crucial evidence in your claim
  • Making an error as to the type of claim you should make

These types of behaviour must be distinguished from poor service, and also from professional misconduct, both of which differ from negligence. Solicitor behaviour which may constitute poor service, and not negligence, include:

  • Failing to keep you informed of what is going on
  • Providing you with incomplete or inaccurate information
  • Involving you in unnecessary delays

Behaviour which may constitute misconduct includes:

  • Misappropriation of your money
  • Acting for you when a conflict of interest exists with the solicitor or one of their clients
  • Releasing confidential information

How to make a claim

Solicitors are nearly always protected financially by professional insurance which covers any financial awards the solicitors may be ordered by the courts to pay. However, being sued by a client and being found negligent may be harmful to a solicitor’s career.

Therefore, if a client decides to sue, solicitors will often proceed to take the case to court rather than settle, in order to avoid the appearance of wrongdoing.

If you are unhappy with the services of a solicitor and you feel that the professional standards with which they served you may amount to negligence, you are advised to seek the opinion of a legal professional.

If you are interested in finding out whether or not you can sue, solicitors who specialise in professional negligence will be able to advise you as to the strength of your case.

It can be difficult to distinguish between negligent behaviour, poor service, and misconduct. Each has different legal avenues and different legal consequences. It is important to pursue the correct legal avenue to ensure that your rights are upheld.

For more advice on using a solicitor, see our page on professional negligence solicitors.

If you believe your solicitor has acted negligently on your case, causing you to suffer a financial loss, or lose your case, Contact Law can recommend a specialist professional negligence lawyer to assist you in bringing a claim against your previous solicitor. Please call us on 0800 1777 162 or complete the web-form above.

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