All solicitors are strictly regulated and have to be insured in order to practice. It means that if something goes wrong, clients are fully protected.
However, in recent years, several unregulated companies have started offering legal services.
In his first annual report, the Chief Ombudsman Adam Sampson, said this had led to thousands of complaints from people who had received an inadequate service.
The problem arises because some legal services such as conveyancing, family law and will writing are not regulated and can be carried out by unqualified staff at unregulated companies.
Mr Sampson said he could not investigate these complaints because he could only deal with cases involving qualified lawyers.
He said: “One service which crops up a lot is will writing. It’s a service carried out often by will-writing firms who aren’t regulated. Because of this, customers are left with little means of redress when things go wrong.
“We’ve seen similar confusion about claims management companies, with lots of consumers believing they’re getting a legal service even though most of the work is carried out by a non-authorised person. Again, we can’t help.
“Thing aren’t helped by many unregulated companies masquerading as traditional law firms, branded with more legal wigs and gowns than you can shake a quill pen at.”
Mr Sampson is calling for greater protection for consumers and has the backing of the Law Society and the consumer organisation, Which.
The Legal Services Consumer Panel has called for will writing to be regulated and that is now being considered by the Legal Services Board.
Please contact us if you would like more information about any of the issues raised in this article.