Why does Resolution not deal with formal complaints while there are ongoing proceedings/negotiations?
Firstly, we are a voluntary organisation and not a regulator and we have no powers to intervene in the legal processes involved in cases. All our solicitor members are bound by the statutory regulations imposed on them by the Solicitors Regulation Authority; Legal Executives are bound by the conditions imposed by CILEX ; Mediators by the Family Mediation Council’s Code and so forth.
These Regulators impose mandatory obligations on their members about how they must act during ongoing proceedings. These include areas concerning confidentiality rules and about the advice and taking of their client’s instructions. Therefore, we cannot interpose these regulatory obligations with our complaint procedure during those ongoing proceedings and we cannot ask what advice they gave to their own client.
Secondly our policy is in in place for the simple reason that Resolution has a responsibility to ensure that our actions do not disturb proceedings that may involve negotiations towards settlement, or matters concerning children and young people. This is also to protect what may be deemed in law to be confidential or privileged information from being disclosed because of the need on the part of a member to respond to a complaint.
Most important to us – when investigating complaints and generally – is that the interests of any children are placed at the heart of the approach that we and our members take. This is the bedrock of our Code of Practice and all that we do. It informs why, from the perspective of our complaints process, we are so anxious not to upset the equilibrium of any ongoing discussions between the parties who are able to access their own independent legal advice about their own positions. If you don’t yet have your own independent legal advisor, we can send you information about various organisations who are able to offer you free initial consultations and guidance.
Much of what is provided within proceedings and ongoing negotiations is bound by the legally confidential information rules and information and documentation should not be shared outside of those proceedings at all without the court’s permission.
If you wish to alert the member to your concerns, during the ongoing proceedings, we can instigate our informal complaint procedure by sending the information that you provide to the Member informing that we will be instigating our formal complaint procedure at the end of the ongoing proceedings.
Because of their duties to their own client, your former partner is likely to be made aware of your concerns and so to may the court. We would hate for this approach to upset those negotiations or cause further distress to you (and hence is also one of the other reasons we ask whether this is an appropriate time to inform of the concerns when you are at liberty to raise these concerns within any court proceedings asking a Judge or Magistrate to deal with the matter at that time). The court can impose costs sanctions for any misconduct issues that arise during the proceedings.
The first step you should do is to write to the Member (or their Compliance Partner – all solicitors’ practices are required to have one) to set out your concerns as to how any Regulatory Code has been breached or why you believe our voluntary Code has been breached. Regulators would also expect you to take this step too.
If you are not satisfied with the answer that you receive then please complete our online complaint form and provide us with your letter of complaint to the Member/Compliance Partner together with a copy of the response that you receive from them.
It would also be helpful if you could provide two letters that the member sent to you that you believe breached our Code of Practice. Please do not send us any of the court documents or pleadings such as affidavits, Form E’s, statements etc. We will then send a copy of that complaint form and supporting correspondences to the Member under our informal procedure so that they are aware of your concerns.
Finally, please note that we can only deal with those matters that relate to our Code of Practice. We are unable to deal with those concerns that relate to regulation such as: delay, costs; providing false information to you, the court or others; fraud or other criminal activity or anything to do with the court processes. Sanctions for any breaches of our Code centre around written apologies and retraining. Financial or striking off remedies are those that are governed by regulation.
What are the responsibilities of legal professionals?
All legal professionals must follow and comply with strict professional standards and regulations which are set out by the Solicitors Regulation Authority if they are a solicitor, the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) if they are a Legal Executive or to the Bar Standards Board if they are a barrister. Your own legal professional has a duty and responsibility to:
- Act with integrity, fairly and professionally – and ensure that they act in your individual best interest
- Ensure that you have the information and/or advice that you need to make a decision about what it is you need their help to do
- Explain how your problem will be handled and any options there are available to you
- Give you information about how much it is likely to cost
Not all legal professionals have the same duty or responsibility toward someone who is not (or has never been) their client (a ‘third party’). Regulators do not always take complaints from third parties so you should always check with the appropriate organisation its policy on accepting such complaints.
Legal professionals are also bound by very strict rules of confidentiality in relation to their own client and for this reason they may not be able to give you any information about what is happening or has happened in regard to advice they have provided to their client without their client’s expressed permission to do so.
Our members must meet the general duties and responsibilities set out by their Regulator. They have additionally signed up to the Resolution Code of Practice for specialist family lawyers.
If your concern is about a breach of the Regulator’s Code or a breach to the court proceedings (for example, about costs, delays, fraud, collusion or lying, taking advantage of you as a Litigant in Person), then you should approach the Regulator or the Court with your complaint. If your complaint is upheld by the Regulator or the Court, please contact us with the outcome report so we can decide on the steps we should take.