SEPTEMBER 2023 – ARTICLES & ITEMS OF INTEREST
THE LEGAL QUALITY STANDARD OF IRELAND
SEPTEMBER 2023 – ARTICLES & ITEMS OF INTEREST
LSRA PUBLISHED SECOND COMPLAINTS REPORT FOR 2023
On the 27 September 2023 the Legal Services Regulatory Authority (LSRA) published its second complaints report for 2023.
This report documents trends, themes and statistics from 4 March 2023 to 1 September 2023.
It is reported 655 complaints were received, with 624 complaints relating to solicitors and 31 relating to barristers.
The main areas that attracted complaints were litigation, conveyancing, family law, and wills and probate.
The main themes emerging from complaints were:- ‘The importance of properly executing deeds’ and ‘Complaints Committee costs can be substantial’.
The 655 complaints can be broken down as follows:-
- 427 (65%) Alleged Misconduct – broken down as follows:-
- Bringing the profession into disrepute – 113,
- Delay – 61
- Undertakings – 27,
- Failure to hand over – 41,
- Failure to communicate – 54,
- Failure to account – 27,
- Other – 104.
- 203 (31%) Alleged inadequate standard
- 26 (4%) Alleged excessive costs (overcharging)
The 674 complaints closed can be broken down as follows:-
|Complaints Closed Inadmissible||299||44%|
|Resolved with the assistance of the LSRA||133||20%|
|Withdrawn (or could not proceed)||60||9%|
|Referred to the LPDT||21||3%|
It was also stated that overall legal practitioners were directed to pay a total of €31,862 in compensation to complainants in the reporting period.
The 24 page report also includes four case studies and several pages of statistical breakdowns of complaints including reference to the various practice areas.
To view this report in full see https://www.lsra.ie/wp-content/uploads/2023/09/LSRA-Complaints-Report-2-2023-FINAL.pdf
IRISH SOLICITOR DIRECTED BY LSRA TO PAY €500 FOR NOT ADEQUATELY EXPLAINING COSTS TO A CLIENT
One of the case studies in the recent LSRA report referred to above, stated how a solicitor was directed to pay €500 to a client who won a pay-out in a personal injuries case after not adequately explaining the costs involved.
The Legal Services Regulatory Authority (LSRA) found that the legal services “were of an inadequate standard because the poor communication from the solicitor to the client led to confusion about the costs. Issues that should have been clearly explained to the client by the solicitor were not addressed”.
LSRA stated “It is important to explain clearly to clients the costs you are charging and to set out clearly which portion of these you have recovered from the defendant. You must ensure that your clients know the amount of costs, if any, which remain to be paid to you directly by them, after you have recovered costs from the defendant. It is particularly important to ensure that specific questions from your client on these issues are not left unanswered.”
PIAB LEGISLATION – IMPORTANT CHANGES
In this month’s Law Society Gazette, the Litigation Committee has issued guidance titled “PIAB Legislation – Important Changes”.
It states “As you may be aware, PIAB legislation and rules changed significantly from 4 September 2023. The main impact of these important developments is that claims are now more at risk of being statute-barred.”
“Until now, if a claim is close to the limitation period, PIAB issues a section 50 acknowledgment and asks for a medical report to be provided later. Not anymore. Now, after sending either a postal application or a Solicitor Portal application (and upon the review by PIAB), the solicitor and/or claimant will be updated on the status of the application.
“Following review, if the application is complete and valid and all the information as required under section 11 is provided, the application will be confirmed as complete for the purpose of acceptance by PIAB and for the purpose of the section 50 acknowledgement being issued with effect from the date the complete application was received. If, following review, any information is missing for the purpose of section 11 (and this includes the provision of a medical report), PIAB will give 28 days to supply the missing information and, if same is not provided, PIAB will close the file.”
The Law Society recommends extreme caution with claims being filed with the board following the commencement of these changes, particularly where the limitation period is close to expiry.
The above are just extracts taken from the guidance note, to view this in full see https://www.lawsociety.ie/globalassets/documents/gazette/gazette-pdfs/gazette-2023/aug-sept-2023-gazette.pdf#page=63
See also the article in this month’s Gazette titled “PIAB Changes ‘of Concern’” by Marcin Szulc member of the Law Society’s Litigation Committee – which looks at the PIAB changes under the following headings:-
- ‘Grave Concerns’,
- ‘Unnecessary Change’,
- ‘All Information Requirement’ and
- ‘Statute of Limitations’.
EMPLOYERS’ DUTY UNDER SAFETY, HEALTH AND WELFARE AT WORK ACT 2005 – NEW GUIDANCE ON WORKPLACE EXPOSURE TO SENSITIVE CONTENT
On the 12 September 2023, the Irish Legal News reported on the new guidance published by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) and the State Claims Agency (SCA) for organisations whose employees are exposed to sensitive content in the course of their work, such as images of graphic violence or sexual abuse.
It states “The guidance reminds employers that they have a duty under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 to manage and conduct work activities to ensure the health and safety of employees, which includes their mental health. It outlines employers’ duty to carry out hazard identification and risk assessment for all known hazards including exposure to graphic material.”
This document sets out practical risk management guidance to help organisations in the management of this risk, to promote employee safety and health.
The article states “Managing this issue also helps to mitigate incidents and absences, ill-health and related claims arising in the future. A template for risk assessment is available within the guidance and should be carried out — as always — in consultation with employees.”
To view this article see https://www.irishlegal.com/articles/new-guidance-on-workplace-exposure-to-sensitive-content and to view the new guidance document from the HSA and SCA titled “Psychosocial Risk Assessment – Exposure to Sensitive Content” see https://www.hsa.ie/eng/publications_and_forms/publications/occupational_health/guidance_for_exposure_to_sensitive_content.pdf
RISKS TO MENTAL HEALTH IN THE WORKPLACE
On the 26 September 2023 the Law Society of Scotland published a blog written by Elizabeth Rimmer, CEO of LawCare, which delves into the topic of psychosocial risks and offers practical steps to mitigate risks in the workplace.
The traditional view of health and safety in the workplace is evolving to include the risks to mental health in workplaces and a recognition that these need to be actively managed.
The World Health Organization has identified common risks to mental health at work and those that are relevant to the legal sector include:
- Excessive workloads;
- Long, unsocial, or inflexible hours;
- Lack of control over workload or job design;
- Organisational culture that enables negative behaviours;
- Poor workplace relationships;
- Limited support from colleagues, poor management, or authoritarian supervision;
- Harassment, sexual harassment or bullying;
- Discrimination and exclusion;
- Unclear job role and expectations;
- Low reward and recognition, poor investment in career development;
- Conflicting home/work demands;
- Isolated or remote working;
- Exposure to traumatic events.
The legal workplace is characterised by inherent psychosocial risks – working long hours, poor work life balance, meeting the expectations of demanding clients, heavy caseloads, the pressure of deadlines and billing targets, whilst maintaining high standards of ethical and professional conduct. Legal professionals working in family, criminal, immigration, or crime may develop vicarious trauma because of exposure to the trauma experienced by their clients.
There are some practical steps that employers can take to mitigate risks such as:
- Invest in management training so that those with responsibility for others have the skills and capacity to do this effectively;
- Ensure staff have the support they need – regular 1:1 catch ups with their manager or supervisor and participation in relevant mentoring and peer support schemes;
- Monitor and manage workloads and ensure staff and teams are adequately resourced;
- Check in regularly with staff working remotely;
- Adopt a zero-tolerance policy to bullying, harassment and discrimination;
- Address poor workplace relationships or conflict;
- Support staff to work healthy hours, take breaks and their holiday entitlement;
- Ensure transparent processes for work allocation, reward, and career progression;
- For those exposed to traumatic events or materials, provide education, support and training;
- Provide flexible working arrangements e.g., working from home or flexible hours to allow more time for responsibilities outside work and for activities that support mental wellbeing.
In this month’s Law Society Gazette and the third article in the cyber security series. Matthew Goodbun, Senior Privacy Consultant, discusses Cybersecurity assessments – what are they, why are they important, and how do you carry them out?.
He states “Assessments generally involve:-
- Clarifying what IT applications, devices, software, and systems are used;
- Reviewing relevant law firm policies and handbooks;
- Assessing the training level and behaviour of staff;
- Understanding an organisation’s internal and external risk factors, such as staff working off-site, sharing portable data storage devices, and using their own personal devices for work.
Assessments should be carried out on a proactive basis, rather than after a security incident or post-litigation. In the legal industry, client accounts are a popular target
While a law firm can assess itself, it is recommended that this type of assessment is best undertaken by an independent third party that can objectively analyse the effectiveness of security measures.”
The above are just extracts from the article to read this article in full see https://www.lawsociety.ie/globalassets/documents/gazette/gazette-pdfs/gazette-2023/aug-sept-2023-gazette.pdf#page=57