On 17th January 2023, the industry regulator, the Bar Standards Board decided to hand down an order imposing a ban on a barrister preventing him from continuing to practise after evidence emerged
Lawyer Makes Client Wait 12 Years To Submit Claim
Professionals working in the legal profession need to be sitting up and taking notice of a recent judgment which was handed down by the Scottish Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal in May 2022 in which a solicitor’s behaviour was described as ‘atrocious’. The conduct of the lawyer in question was viewed as seemingly sitting on her proverbial hands and not pursuing a claim for well over a decade. This was perceived to be so serious by the Scottish Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal that it saw fit to impose particularly stern limitations upon the practicing certificate of the lawyer for the period of two years.
What Happened In The Case?
The lawyer had taken instructions on a seemingly fairly run-of-the-mill, innocuous and basic road traffic accident claim whereby the respective Claimant sought damages for whiplash injuries and other related losses. However, the Scottish Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal heard evidence that contrary to pursuing the claim on the Claimant’s behalf the solicitor subject to the proceedings did not communicate effectively with her client about the progress of the personal injury claim for over twelve years between around March 2005 and November 2017. In context the lawyer was found to have dropped numerous clangers in terms of her professional duties such as not:
- acting in the best interests of clients
- communicating appropriately with clients on numerous occasions about their files and
- demonstrating a professional attitude towards investigators from the regulator.
The Scottish Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal were damning of her behaviour. The Regulator went so far as to perceive the lawyer’s conduct as absolutely horrendous and unsatisfactory. An aggravating factor that appears to have tipped the balance against the lawyer was the fact that the behaviour had taken place over a lengthy period. The Scottish Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal held the lawyer liable for professional misconduct and only allowed her to work supervised for twenty-four months because her behaviour had tarnished the legal industry and was a risk to the population. To seemingly add insult to proverbial injury for the lawyer if she chooses to continue with her legal career it will be on the strict condition that such career continuation will be subject to supervision by an overseeing colleague.
However, more extraordinary revelations appeared to have come to light when an independent, unrelated, and third-party client had provided the lawyer in question with instructions on another matter. The affected client’s life, in that case, proceeded to sadly ebb to a conclusion before a grievance being resolved.
How Should Lawyers Respond As A Result?
Legal professionals should be ensuring they are doing all they reasonably can to follow the below strategy wherever possible:
- regularly communicating with clients to update them on the progress of their respective cases
- act with the integrity of the legal profession at the forefront of their minds at all times
- not risk the safety of the public by acting in such an unprofessional manner
- ensure they are following the relevant and respective Solicitors Code of Conduct for Solicitors
- not be ignoring numerous correspondence from clients such as emails, telephone calls, and letters over a long period and
- if lawyers find themselves investigated by an industry regulator then lawyers should show a professional attitude.
This will reduce the risk of the behaviour being rebuked by the industry regulator, found to be liable for unprofessional conduct, seriously damaging the reputation of the legal profession and facing restrictions on their respective practice certificates. Lawyers will also reduce the risk of experienced lawyers having to operate under the watchful eye of a supervising colleague.
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THE ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN USING THE FOLLOWING SOURCES
 McQuaid, Mike – Scots lawyer slammed after making client wait 12 years for damages claim to be pursued – Daily Record - Scots lawyer slammed after making client wait 12 years for damages claim to be pursued - Daily Record
 Glasgow Bar Association - Glasgow Bar Association – Independent voice of the legal profession in the west of Scotland
 Scottish Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal – Law Society v Fiona McKinnon – 12.01.2022 - Law Society-v-Fiona McKinnon | Scottish Solicitors' Discipline Tribunal (ssdt.org.uk)
 The Council of The Law Society of Scotland v Fiona McKinnon - 1908-fiona-mckinnon.pdf (ssdt.org.uk)
 The Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980
 The Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal (Procedure Rules) 2008
 Section 15 The Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980