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Litigation tactics: Solicitor-on-solicitor misconduct complaints up a third in five years

Misconduct reports against solicitors by fellow legal professionals have jumped a third in five years to more than 2,500 complaints, new figures show.

Complaints made to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) by solicitors, barristers and other professionals were up to 2,516 in 2015 from 1,852 in 2011, according to figures from RPC.

While the number of reports against solicitors was up, overall claims of misconduct remained fairly static over the five years at around 10,900 each year. There were only 123 sanctions upheld by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal in 2015.

RPC legal director Graham Reid said the rise suggested litigation tactics were becoming more aggressive, with legal teams launching complaints against their opposition at the instruction of clients.

Reid told Legal Business: ‘It’s my experience that solicitors, especially litigators, can be over-enthusiastic in making misconduct complaints about the other side’s lawyers. A misconduct complaint is a serious matter: it shouldn’t be used just for the purposes of litigation tactics.’

In major litigation claims Reid said that clients may bring complaints against minor problems, such as the use of delaying tactics or factual errors during evidence, which do not result in a full incident of misconduct.

He added: ‘A solicitor thinking of making a misconduct complaint should be aware of the risk of wasting the regulator’s time,’ said Reid. ‘The SRA does not have inexhaustible resources, and it may not like being used for the purposes of point-scoring in litigation.

‘Being on the receiving end of a misconduct allegation – even where it doesn’t have a grain of truth to it – can be very upsetting for the solicitor concerned, it can undermine client trust and create potential self-interest conflicts.’