Solicitor Negligence

Solicitors are highly regulated and owe their clients a contractual, statutory and tortious duty of care to act in their best interests. We understand as lawyers where solicitors go wrong and where solicitors fail to act in their client’s best interests to effectively act upon their client’s instructions.

We specialise in providing expert legal advice on professional negligence claims against solicitors and all members of the legal profession.

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.

Common Examples of Solicitor Negligence

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.

Case Studies: Negligent Solicitors

Solicitor successfully sued for filing wrong plan at the Land Registry and falsifying attendance notes

The defendant in this case was a sole practitioner solicitor with 17 years of experience. The claimant instructed the solicitor to purchase a plot of land for over £1.5 million.

The solicitor signed a document to confirm that he approved the apportioning of the land for a sub-sale (which turned out to be premised on the wrong plan, which any solicitor acting with due care would have realised) and then filed the wrong plan at the Land Registry. His breach of duty caused the claimant to suffer loss as his negligent action significantly reduced the value of the land.

Parties in litigation have a duty to consider settlement at every stage of the litigation process. This case proceeded to trial and the claimant achieved a successful result in being awarded over £200,000 in damages.

The case did not end there. During the course of the litigation, it transpired that the negligent solicitor had falsified attendance notes in order to persuade the judge that discussion, advice and instructions had not taken place.

The negligent solicitor was reported to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) for falsifying attendance notes and relying on them in civil proceedings. The SDT found that the solicitor had gone to “considerable lengths” to persuade the court he had not acted negligently and went as far as to maintain this position during cross-examination which “intrinsically involved deliberate concealment of the true position”.

The solicitor was struck off and ordered to pay costs of over £7,000 and the claimant achieved the success of over £200,000 in the professional negligence proceedings.

Successful compensation claim after solicitor’s mistake causes claim to become discontinued

The defendant solicitor firm were instructed to bring an asbestos-related disease claim by the relatives of a deceased former insulation engineer who had had lung cancer.

The defendant solicitor’s firm made a crucial mistake during the evidence gathering process of the claim. The defendant firm instructed a doctor’s report to prove that the lung cancer was caused by asbestos exposure. In providing instructions to the doctor, the negligent solicitors’ firm included the deceased’s hospital and GP records but crucially neither the mineral fibre analysis nor the post-mortem report.

The doctor’s report subsequently stated that the lung cancer was not linked to the asbestos exposure, which caused the claimants to discontinue the claim and lose the chance of damages or an out of court settlement agreement. It was accepted that if the defendant solicitors had provided the correct documentation to the doctor, then his report would have been materially different.

At trial the judge concluded that the claimants had good prospects of success in the underlying claim and the breach of duty (in not providing all the relevant documents to the expert) led to the claim being discontinued. The claimants achieved the successful result of £200,000 damages awarded by the court.

Successful claim against solicitor who mis-managed settlement funds for clients

The defendant solicitors acted in group litigation for almost 30,000 Ivory Coast residents in a damages claim for personal injuries caused by the dumping of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast. The solicitors were successful in securing settlement sums of over £30 million.

However, the defendant firm arranged for the settlement sums to be paid into an (unsecure) bank account in the Ivory Coast. Consequently, around £6 million was stolen by fraud from the settlement sums held in the African bank account. The solicitors were negligent in not conducting diligence checks on the account and taking into account the potential for fraud or corruption. Clearly, the firm were in breach of its duties as the trustee for the sum received.

The firm presented the defence that the loss was too remote to be recoverable. However, the court were persuaded that the defendant should have at least recognised the risk of a dishonest claim and the claimants achieved the successful result of receiving the compensation they would have received in the underlying case had the defendant firm not have acted negligently.

Claimants achieve successful result after solicitor fails to advise of risk of dispute in commercial lease agreement

The claimants instructed the firm of solicitors in connection with the purchase of a commercial lease, the claimants intended to use the property as a restaurant.

The defendant firm failed to appreciate and warn the claimants that there was an alternative interpretation of a particular term in the lease, which could lead to a future dispute (and a dispute had since arisen).

Arguments put forward by the claimants included the fact that where there is a real possbility that wording could be interpreted in an alternative way to the extent that there is a risk of a dispute, then a solicitor has a duty to advise their client of that risk. Even though the defendant solcitors were ultimately correct in their interpretation of the term in the lease, the fact that the solicitors did not warn the claimants of the risk of a dispute is enough to demonstrate negligence.

Can I challenge my solicitor’s bill?

In addition, unlike many other law firms, we have an experienced legal costs team, who specialise in challenging the reasonableness of bills/invoices rendered by your previous solicitor. We find that in many professional negligence claims, clients are not happy with the service they have received and in tandem the price that they have paid for the sub-standard work completed.

If you consider that your bill (i.e. invoice) is overpriced for the work that you instructed to be done, our expert costs team can help you to understand the reasonbaleness of the bill(s) and if appropriate, challenge the bill in addition to any professional neglgience claim.

Can I challenge my solicitor’s bill and start professional negligence proceedings?

This is a relatively contentious area. Challenging a bill is commenced in the Senior Courts Costs Office (SCCO), whereas commencing professional negligence proceedings (if the claim is for more than £100,000) is in the High Court.

One of the Court’s overriding objectives in the Civil Procedural Rules is to save time and expense. The Court generally do not condone claimants commencing parallel proceedings and if costs proceedings are commenced in the SCCO, and the pre-action protocol for professional negligence is ongoing, the SCCO will likely order a stay of the costs proceedings in order to enable the parties to comply with the pre-action protocol for professional negligence. However, this varies depending on the individual facts of a case.

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.

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