I found an error in a client file. What should I do?
I’m a newly qualified solicitor. I took over a file from a former colleague and spotted an error that has potential to cause the client loss if it cannot be corrected. What are my regulatory obligations?
Your role is to:
- notify your supervisor of the circumstances, and
- not make any admissions of liability until the firm’s senior managers have assessed the position, if necessary, in consultation with the firm’s professional indemnity insurers
An admission of liability by you to the client before informing the insurers may impact on the firm’s professional indemnity insurance policy for this potential claim and on renewal.
Paragraph 7.11 of the SRA Code of Conduct for Solicitors (SCCS) states:
“You are honest and open with clients if things go wrong, and if a client suffers loss or harm as a result you put matters right (if possible) and explain fully and promptly what has happened and the likely impact…”
To protect your position, you should remind your supervisor that paragraph 7.11 SCCS (replicated in paragraph 3.5 of the SRA Code of Conduct for Firms) requires prompt openness and honesty in all dealings with the client.
If, pending the outcome of the investigation, you are instructed by your supervisor not to disclose to the client, a potential approach is to ask for this instruction to be confirmed to you in writing.
In any event, you should discuss the matter with your firm’s compliance officer for legal practice (COLP) or compliance officer for finance and administration (COFA).
By raising your concerns with the COLP or COFA, you obtain protection for your own personal position. Paragraph 7.12 SCCS states:
“Any obligation under this section or otherwise to notify, or provide information to, the SRA will be satisfied if you provide information to your firm’s COLP or COFA, as and where appropriate, on the understanding that they will do so.”
Whilst most of the matters reported to insurers do not need to be reported to the SRA, and normal practice would be to only report serious negligence/misconduct, that is a decision for your firm’s COLP or COFA.
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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