The Legal Ombudsman has urged people to be wary of getting legal services from unregulated and often unqualified providers.
Chief ombudsman Adam Sampson revealed that he has received 40,000 complaints about law practitioners since his office was set up six months ago. His team has not been able to deal with many of the complaints because they are against people who are not qualified solicitors.
He said: “We’ve seen lots of cases where people have had deficient wills where we haven’t been able to help.”
The problems stem from the fact that there is no regulation covering some legal services such as conveyancing or divorce.
It means anyone can set up in practice offering these services even though they may not be properly qualified or have any insurance. Consumers may be attracted by cut price deals but they may have no form of redress if things go wrong.
Solicitors, by contrast, are strictly regulated which means they can be held accountable if they make mistakes.
The legal services market is to be opened up to more providers in October.
It will enable a wide range of businesses to enter the market and Mr Sampson fears that the distinction between regulated and unregulated providers will become more blurred: “This problem will only increase as the legal services market reforms, and internet-based provision and commoditisation of legal services increases.”
Many of the new providers will be completely legitimate but some may not, leading to more complaints to the legal ombudsman. People will need to think very carefully before making life affecting decisions based on legal advice from providers who may not be qualified or insured.
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