We provide expert legal advice on professional negligence claims against solicitors, barristers, licenced conveyancers and intellectual property (patent) attorneys.
Professional negligence claims against members of the legal profession tend to be complex in nature and argument. Professional indemnity insurers will often instruct a specialist City of London law firm to defend claims vigorously and therefore it is essential to take legal advice at the outset from our expert professional negligence team.
Complaint about a solicitor or barrister?
Legal professionals such as solicitors and barristers are highly trained and rigorously regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and the Bar Standards Board (BSB) respectively. A high level of trust is placed upon such lawyers by their clients. If a lawyer fails to deliver the service to the standard expected of a reasonable professional in that speciality field, then a client has every right to bring a complaint (and court proceedings) if financial or personal loss is suffered as a result.
What is the time limit for commencing a claim against a solicitor or barrister?
Time limits and limitation periods are essential to adhere to in litigation. Missing a limitation period is fatal to the chances of success of any claim and will leave a claim statute barred.
When it comes to ascertaining the limitation date for a particular claim, there are a number of factors to consider. In simple terms, the limitation period is six years from the accrual of the cause of action (section 2, Limitation Act 1980). However, if the six year time limit has passed but you have only just discovered the effect of any latent damage, then the limitation period may be extended to three years from the date of knowledge (section 14A, Limitation Act 1980).
Another complicating factor is that in almost all circumstances, a legal professional will owe a client concurrent duties i.e. a duty in both contract and tort. This means it is up to the claimant to choose whether to bring an action in contract, tort or both. The relevance is that although both contract and tort have a limitation period of six years after the relevant cause of action accrues, in contract the cause of action accrues once the relevant contractual term is breached and in tort it accrues once damage has occurred. Therefore, limitation periods for both causes of action vary.
If you have a complaint against a lawyer, then our advice is that you take independent legal advice as soon as possible.
How do I prove that my solicitor or barrister has been negligent?
Significant judgments in cases against legal professional all highlight that three essential elements are required to prove a successful allegation against a solicitor or barrister.
The following three elements need to be proved to the civil standard of proof on a balance of probabilities i.e. it must be proven that the lawyer’s breach in the duty owed to its’ client, more likely than not caused the client to suffer loss.
1.Demonstrate that the lawyer owed you a duty of care: the boundary lines between when a tortious duty of care is owed or not owed is subject to tests that are being continuously adapted by the courts. It is safe to say that a duty of care exists where the lawyer can be shown to have objectively assumed responsibility (and the courts have demonstrated increasing willingness to find that a lawyer is liable to whomever reasonably relies on their advice). Once a lawyer accepts instructions and you have signed the client care letter, a contractual duty of care will likely be found within that document.
2. Establish that the lawyer has breached the duty of care owed to you: proving breach will obviously vary depending on the individual circumstances of the case. A claimant needs to demonstrate that the breach shows that the lawyer fell below the standards of a reasonably competent lawyer in that speciality. The particular level of experience of the lawyer (from newly qualified trainee solicitor to highly experienced partner) is not relevant- inexperience is no good argument to persuade the court to lower the standard of care. However, if a lawyer or firm hold themselves out as specialists in an area (for example solicitors specialising in conveyancing), then the court will hold them to standard of reasonably competent specialists of conveyancing law.
3. Prove that the lawyer’s breach caused loss to you: you must prove both factual and legal causation. The test for factual causation is that “but for” the lawyer’s breach you would not have suffered loss, for example if a lawyer misses a limitation date and as a result your claim becomes statute barred and you lose the chance to substantial damages in the substantive claim, factual causation is demonstrable because “but for” the solicitor’s negligence you would still have a claim that was not time-barred and still have a chance to achieving damages. Legal causation must also be proved i.e. the loss must be reasonably foreseeable at the time when the relevant duty was breached.
Case examples of Legal Professional Negligence Claims
Examples of common claims against solicitors, barristers, patent attorneys and licenced conveyancers include:
- Failing to provide correct legal advice: a claim can be brought if a lawyer has provided a negligent legal opinion, relied upon by a claimant, which has led to personal or financial loss.
- Failing to fully investigate or properly evidence the claim: solicitors and direct access barristers may be negligent in not gathering all pertinent information to ensure a claimant’s case is successful e.g. by not obtaining witness statements which supports the version of events.
- Failing to fully warn the client on the risks: for example a solicitor will be negligent if a specific risk warning that a tax avoidance scheme might fail.
- Missing a limitation date leading to a claim becoming time-barred: if the original claim had merit, then a claimant is entitled to pursue the errant solicitor or law firm for their loss of chance of success in the claim.
- Failing to comply with a court order or deadline: if your claim has been struck out by the court after your solicitor or barrister breached an order of the Court (e.g. an unless order), then you may have a claim against the legal professional for poor performance of the litigation.
- Poor performance of instructions: failing to adequately investigate title to property when acting for the buyer of a property; failing to advise on burdens affecting a property e.g. restrictive covenants, adverse rights burdening the property, failing to register a mortgage/debenture at Companies House if acting for a buyer client company.
Book an Initial Consultation with our Professional Negligence Lawyers
Do you have a claim against a professional? If you want expert legal advice, do not delay in instructing us so we can assess the legal merit of your case.
We can often take on such claims on a no win no fee basis (such as a Conditional Fee Arrangement) once we have discussed the claim with you and then assessed and advised you on the merits of the proposed professional negligence action.
Our expert legal team of leading Professional Negligence Solicitors & Barristers can provide urgent help, advice or representation to you. Just call our Professional Negligence Lawyers on 02071830529 or email us now.
Instruct Specialist Professional Negligence Solicitors
We are a specialist City of London law firm made up of Solicitors & Barristers operating from the only law firm based in the Middle Temple Inn of Court adjacent to the Royal Courts of Justice. Our team have expertise in advising on claims for compensation against professionals that have fallen below the standard expected, which causes clients financial or personal loss. We are experienced in bringing successful claims against negligent solicitors, barristers, financial advisers, surveyors, valuers, architects, tax advisers and IFAs.