Client care

When acting on multiple retainers, can I rely on client care information I've already provided?

Our firm has acted for a large commercial client on many occasions and on different retainers. Can we rely on the client care and complaints handling information that we provided when first instructed?

If a firm is providing a service, paragraph 7.1(c) of the SRA Code of Conduct for Firms 2019 sets out what is required of a firm in respect of complaints handling.

Paragraph 7.1(c) references paragraph 8.3 of the SRA Code of Conduct for Solicitors 2019 (SCCS):

“You ensure that clients are informed in writing at the time of engagement about:

a) their right to complain to you about your services and your charges;

b) how a complaint can be made and to whom; and

c) any right they have to make a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman and when they can make any such complaint.”

This means doing so on each retainer with the client. Paragraph 7.1(c) applies to firms “providing legal services to the public or a section of the public”.

No distinction is made between the ‘public’ and businesses.

The Legal Ombudsman (LeO) has jurisdiction over certain complaints only, including those from commercial clients defined as ‘micro-enterprises’.

‘Micro-enterprise’ is defined in rule 2.1(b) of LeO’s Scheme Rules with a linked reference to footnote 14, and the European Commission Recommendation 2003/361/EC.

Broadly, a micro-enterprise is a business or enterprise with fewer than 10 employees and turnover or assets not exceeding €2 million.

In relation to commercial clients larger than ‘micro-enterprises’, where LeO does not have jurisdiction, note the alternatives in paragraph 8.2 SCCS:

“You ensure that, as appropriate in the circumstances, you either establish and maintain, or participate in, a procedure for handling complaints in relation to the legal services you provide.”

Even if it appears that the LeO scheme is not relevant to such clients, you must still establish and maintain, or participate in, a complaints procedure.

For more information, see our practice notes on client information requirements and handling complaints.

Disclaimer

While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information in this article, it does not constitute legal advice and cannot be relied upon as such. The Law Society does not accept any responsibility for liabilities arising as a result of reliance upon the information given.

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