We will usually contact the service provider’s regulator to establish the former partners/directors last known address and (in the case of lawyers) if they are working at a different firm. Usually, we’ll then try and contact one or more of the partners/directors, to make them aware of the complaint and to ask them to provide their comments and evidence.
If the service provider tells us that they wish to be given the opportunity to try and resolve the complaint before we investigate, then under our Scheme Rules, we have to allow them to do that. We will usually take no further action at that time. However, if you aren’t able to resolve your complaint with them, you can come back to us and ask us to continue with our investigation.
Sometimes when a service provider closes, some or all of their clients’ files are transferred to another firm/company. Where the original service provider is closed, we will need to see whether there is a ‘successor’ that might be responsible for dealing with the complaint. The rules in this area are complex, but if we decide there is a ‘successor’, then that firm/company will usually be responsible for dealing with the complaint and for providing any remedy that we award.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) can close down solicitor’s firms if they decide it is in the clients’ interests. This is called an intervention. Where there has been an intervention, an agent is appointed by the SRA. The intervention agent may initially take possession of the firm’s files and can be a useful point of contact for us.
You may be directed to the intervention agent if your legal matter was still being dealt with by the firm at the time they closed. You would then need to ask them for your file and find an alternative legal service provider to continue with your case. If however, your legal matter had finished when the firm stopped trading, then you may be advised to ask the SRA‘s Intervention Archives department (contact details below) to try to locate your file.
Intervention ArchivesUnit A Colonnade PointPro Logis Park CoventryCV6 4BX 02476 339250
When law firms close, they usually make arrangements including transferring any outstanding money belonging to their customers back to them. Sometimes, that does not happen. The SRA manages a Compensation Fund to replace customer’s money that a solicitor’s firm has not returned to them. Claims to the Compensation Fund should be made within 12 months of when you knew or could reasonably have known about the money not being returned to you. The claim must be supported by evidence - for example, that the firm actually held the money in the first place. Where there is not enough evidence the claim may be rejected. Details of how to make a claim can be found on the SRA’s website. In the event that the Compensation Fund rejects your claim, you may still be able to ask us to consider the complaint
An ombudsman’s final decision can be enforced in court, even when the service provider is closed. In practice, however, getting a closed service provider to pay compensation can be difficult. If an ombudsman has made a final decision against a closed legal service provider and told them to pay you compensation, you would need to make a claim against their insurance policy (this is called indemnity insurance). We will get the insurer’s contact details for you so you can make a claim directly against them. It is then a matter for the insurer to consider the claim. However, please note that if an ombudsman has told the service provider to refund some or all of their fees, the insurers are not obliged to pay it.
All solicitors are required to have indemnity insurance. However, if it has been more than six years since they closed, you would have to make a claim to the Solicitors Indemnity Fund. We would suggest you contact the Solicitor’s Regulation Authority’s Claims Management Unit so they can provide advice on how to do that. Their contact details are: Claims Management Unit Solicitors Regulation Authority The Cube 199 Wharfside Street Birmingham B1 1RN DX 720293 BIRMINGHAM 47, or
Bar Standards Board (BSB)
For a barrister, information on consumer protections including professional indemnity insurance can be found here. CILEx Regulation
For a Chartered Legal Executive, you can find information about how to complain here.
Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC)
If you are dealing with a conveyancer, details of what will happen when a firm closes are here. You can also find a list of recent closures here. Intellectual Property Regulation Board (IPReg)
For a trade mark attorney or patent attorney, information on how they can help is available here.
Costs Lawyer Standards Board (CSLB)
Information on a complaining about costs lawyers can be found here. The Faculty Office
Information about disciplinary action taken against notaries and availability of compensation can be found here. Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW)
In the case of an ICAEW accountant, details of their compensation scheme for members of the public who have incurred a financial loss is posted here. Please contact us if you would like further advice on making a complaint about a service provider that has closed.
If a service provider is closed, it can be difficult for us to investigate complaints about them. Some of the problems include: Can we obtain enough information? If we are unable to get enough evidence, then we may decide we are unable to carry out a fair investigation. If this is the case, we will explain it to you. Can we enforce payment of compensation against a closed firm? This can be difficult. It is important to understand that, even if we make a decision, there are no guarantees of you receiving payment of any compensation. Our decision can be enforced in the courts but if the service provider no longer exists, this may not always be practical. We always aim, wherever possible, to fully investigate every complaint we accept. However, complaints against closed firms do raise particular problems that mean you may not be able to get what you are looking for, even if we make a final decision.
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