This page provides information to members of the public who are looking for support with a legal query or who wish to complain about a regulator, lawyer or other legal professional.
The Legal Services Board (LSB) is not able to provide legal advice and by law we cannot intervene in complaints about legal professionals or regulators. We have provided further information in the answers to some frequently asked questions below.
If you cannot find an answer to your enquiry below, please contact us and we will do what we can to help.
Consumer Issues and Legal Information
Do you need legal advice?
If you need legal advice, a good place to start is Legal Choices, a website run by the legal services regulators. It outlines different areas of law such as family, employment, housing, immigration, debt, wills and probate, and provides information on the type of lawyer or service that might be able to help you. Even if you are not certain that your problem is legal, it is worth visiting the website to explore potential options.
Need to check if you are getting a good service?
If you have established that you are experiencing a legal issue, then you might want to shop around before you decide which legal service to use. Websites like Which? can help show what kind of legal services might be available to you, and to check that you are getting a good service for a fair price.
Are you looking for a lawyer?
Use the Law Society’s free ‘Find a solicitor’ service. The database has details of over 187,000 solicitors in England and Wales and can direct you towards legal help based on your legal issue and location. All the solicitors are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).
Do you think you might be entitled to legal aid?
If you think you might be entitled to legal aid, then contact the Legal Aid Agency (LAA). The LAA is responsible for running the legal aid scheme in England and Wales.
Telephone number: 0300 200 20 20
The LSB is not responsible for legal aid and we are not able to intervene in any cases.
Would you like to complain about your lawyer?
If you are unhappy with the service you received from your lawyer, the first step is to complain directly to the lawyer/law firm (See the Legal Ombudsman’s complaint checker). If you remain dissatisfied, the second step in this process is to contact the Legal Ombudsman 0300 555 0333. The LSB does not handle complaints about lawyers and cannot intervene in any new or ongoing complaint or dispute.
1. Can the LSB advise me on reserved legal activities, and what activities are currently regulated?
No, the LSB cannot advise on reserved legal activities as it does not have the statutory power to enable it to provide specific legal advice to members of the public or businesses about how the definitions of reserved legal activities might apply to a particular set of circumstances.
At our reserved legal activities page we have outlined the relevant provisions of the Legal Services Act, but if you need further clarification – for example, relating to the scope of reserved and unreserved legal activity – you should consider seeking independent and specialist legal advice.
There are six specific legal services activities that only those who are authorised (or those who are exempt) can carry on. These are called “reserved legal activities”. The six reserved legal activities are: the exercise of a right of audience; the conduct of litigation; reserved instrument activities; probate activities; notarial activities; and the administration of oaths. Lawyers carrying on these activities are regulated by the approved regulators in the legal services sector, working under the oversight of the LSB. For further information, please see our reserved legal activities page
2. How do I complain about an approved regulator?
If you would like to complain about the service you received from an approved regulator when they considered your complaint, you should contact the approved regulator directly. The LSB is an oversight regulator for the 10 approved regulators, and does not have jurisdiction to review approved regulators’ decisions or process on individual cases.
Here are the websites of the 10 approved regulators and frontline regulators that will be able to help you further:
3. Can the LSB intervene on my behalf if I disagree with the decision of an approved regulator?
No, the LSB is not allowed to intervene on your behalf if you disagree with a decision from an Approved regulator. The Legal Services Act 2007 prohibits the LSB from asking a regulator to decide a case in a certain way or to review decisions they have already made. The LSB is concerned with systemic issues in the legal services market and the role of regulation in protecting consumer as a whole, not at an individual level.
4. I need to complain about my lawyer, where do I go?
If you are unhappy with the service you received from your lawyer, the first step is to complain directly to the lawyer/law firm (See the Legal Ombudsman’s complaint checker.) If you are still dissatisfied, the second step in this process is to contact the Legal Ombudsman 0300 555 0333. The Legal Services Board does not handle complaints about lawyers and cannot intervene in any new or ongoing complaint or dispute.
5. Can I make a complaint about someone else’s lawyer?
You can make a complaint about a legal services provider to the Legal Ombudsman (LeO). However, LeO can only deal with complaints from consumers who directly engaged the legal services provider, and where the complaint relates to the level of service received. More information is available on LeO’s website: https://www.legalombudsman.org.uk/information-centre/faqs/
If your complaint is about a legal services provider you didn’t deal with directly – that is, you want to make a third party complaint – you can check whether an approved regulator or another organisation might be able to deal with your complaint. Your complaint will need to relate to something other than the level of service provided. Further information is contained on the websites of each organisation. LeO’s website provides links to each of the approved regulators for legal services, and other organisations:
6. I need help with my Legal Ombudsman case, can the LSB help me?
If you are unhappy with how the Legal Ombudsman (LeO) handled your case, the first step is to communicate to the lead person dealing with your case and if you feel that it is still unresolved, it will be escalated to their Operational Support Team. More information on how to complain about the Legal Ombudsman service is here. The Legal Ombudsman was established by the Office for Legal Complaints (OLC) under the Legal Services Act 2007 to administer an independent, consumer focused scheme to resolve complaints about lawyers. More information about the Legal Ombudsman is available at: www.legalombudsman.org.uk.
7. I need help with my court case, can the LSB help me?
No, the LSB cannot help with your specific court case. In fact, the LSB has no remit in respect to court cases at all. Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) provides information on the courts system and how to deal with cases. You can access this guidance through the HMCTS website. If you need help with finding a Lawyer, the Legal Choices website provides information on the different Types of lawyers you can use for your specific legal services need.
8. Can the LSB help me get legal aid?
The Legal Aid Agency (LAA) is the body responsible for running the legal aid scheme in England and Wales. Their website can be accessed here. The LSB is not the authority responsible for legal aid, we are not able to intervene in any cases.
For enquiries regarding legal aid, you need to get in touch with the Legal Aid Agency, contact details are as follows:
Telephone number: 0300 200 20 20
9. Where can I get help with my SDT [Solicitors’ Disciplinary Tribunal] case?
The Solicitors’ Disciplinary Tribunal adjudicates upon alleged breaches of the rules and regulations applicable to solicitors and their firms. If you want to complain about the service you received with SDT you can contact them by writing an email or via the post. Please follow their guidance to fill in the enquiry with the required detail. The LSB can not intervene in any cases at the Tribunal. You can read more about the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal at https://www.solicitorstribunal.org.uk/
10. How does the LSB conduct performance monitoring?
We monitor, review and assess regulators under our regulatory performance assessment framework to ensure they meet the minimum expected standard of performance across the regulatory performance standards. In order to assure ourselves of performance, we assess a range of evidence sources including a performance management dataset that the regulators report to us, stakeholder feedback and publicly available documentation such as Board papers and minutes. If we are unable to assure ourselves of performance through an assessment of available evidence, or we have reason to be concerned about the regulator’s performance, we may undertake a review of their performance against one or all of the standards. More detail about the framework, including process documents, is available on our website. When we undertake a review of regulatory performance, or a thematic review, we publish a report on our findings. The most recent regulatory performance report is available on our website.
11. How does the LSB monitor the performance of the Legal Ombudsman and hold it to account?
The Office for Legal Complaints (OLC) is the board of the Legal Ombudsman. The OLC is an independent public sector body in its own right and has its own statutory functions, powers and duties. The Legal Services Act gives the LSB a variety of functions, powers and duties in relation to the OLC, including requiring us to appoint the OLC Board and approve its budget. The OLC has day to day responsibility for overseeing the Legal Ombudsman’s performance, and the LSB has various measures in place for overseeing the performance of the OLC.
The LSB has continued to operate and refine an approach to voluntary assurance agreed by the respective Chairs in June 2017. This comprises a series of elements:
- information about the Legal Ombudsman’s performance is put on its website quarterly (completed, ongoing)
- OLC provide comprehensive information on scheme performance to the LSB through OLC Board papers and minutes (completed, ongoing);
- quarterly meetings to discuss performance, including attendance by an LSB Board Member and CEO at OLC Board meetings twice yearly, now increased to quarterly (completed, ongoing – meetings attended in October 2019 and March 2020)
- the OLC Chair would send a voluntary assurance note to the LSB, following each OLC Board meeting, explaining how the OLC has dealt with the Legal Ombudsman’s performance at that meeting (completed, ongoing). In addition to the measures above, working with the MoJ, we have asked the OLC to produce a draft roadmap setting out a path to a sustained level of acceptable performance
Our powers in relation to LeO are much more limited than in relation to regulators. Our remit for enforcement only extends to the approved regulators and we may issue directions to the Solicitors’ Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT). For the Act’s part 6 procedure, (the legislation that establishes LeO) we are restricted to directing our powers towards the Office for Legal Complaints (OLC) and not LeO, and even there we may only require regular performance reports, approving their budget and, at the extreme end, dismiss their CEO.
12. Information on SQE and LSB
What is the SQE?
The Solicitors Qualification Examination (SQE) is a new centralised assessment that all candidates will need to pass to qualify as a solicitor in England and Wales. It will replace the current system where candidates need to pass prescribed courses (such as the Legal Practice Course) that are delivered by a large number of education and training providers. It has been proposed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) as a key part of its new framework for admission as a solicitor. The SQE itself will be provided by Kaplan and the first SQE examinations are expected to take place in November 2021.
We issued a press notice about on our decision to approve the SRA’s application.
Why did the LSB approve the SRA’s application?
The LSB is the oversight regulator for legal services. Our responsibilities include considering and approving changes that regulators, including the SRA, want to make to their rules and regulations. Hence, the SRA needed to seek our approval to introduce the SQE.
We scrutinised the application carefully and considered the views of many stakeholders who identified several potential risks and opportunities with the proposal. We engaged with the SRA extensively on these matters. We found no ground for refusing the application. The LSB’s approval is based on the statutory criteria set out in the Legal Services Act 2007.
How did the LSB reach the decision?
The LSB received the SRA’s application on 31 July 2020. The LSB extended the initial 28-day decision period to 28 October 2020. This enabled the LSB to make additional enquiries about the SQE and fully understand the impact of the proposed change for both people who need legal services and the profession.
During this time, we sought additional information from the SRA and clarified several parts of their application. We also considered the views of many people.
What will the LSB do if the SQE is poorly implemented?
Through the assessment process, the SRA has made a number of commitments around how it will manage, monitor and respond to risks through implementation and operation of the new framework. As long as the SRA follows through on these, we see no reason to believe that the SQE will not achieve its aims.
We have set a clear expectation for the SRA to continue to demonstrate openness and transparency as it implements the reforms, and this will provide public accountability. In addition, we will hold the SRA to account through our regulatory performance framework for following through on its commitments. If we have concerns about this, we will report on these as we do with concerns about the performance of any of the regulators that we oversee. If needed, we are able to take a wide range of regulatory action in response to serious or ongoing concerns about regulators’ performance.
If you have any questions, please get in touch with Sally Al-Saleem, Regulatory Policy Manager.
13. What should I do if I am concerned that a solicitors firm or barristers chambers have breached the Equality Act?
If it is established that a solicitors firm or barristers chambers have breached the Equality Act, the Solicitors Regulation Authority or the Bar Standards Board, respectively, will take the appropriate action. It is for them and their jurisdiction to deal with a case of this nature, so please contact them directly.
14. What is the Solicitor’s Indemnity Fund?
The Solicitor’s Indemnity Fund (SIF) was set up in 1987 to provide compulsory professional indemnity cover to all solicitors. The role of the SIF changed over time and in 1999 it was abolished, and professional indemnity insurance moved to an open market system. Responsibility for indemnification arrangements were delegated to the Solicitor’s Regulatory Authority (SRA) in 2006.
For more information on the Solicitor’s Indemnity Fund, please click here.