Ombudsman swamped by surge of grievances; CASE STUDIES

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Solicitor K offered Mrs J investment advice and retained pounds 4,000 commission without her consent. The Solicitors Complaints Bureau said it was his word against hers.

In fact, solicitors have to provide proof of consent. The Ombudsman recommended that Mr K pay Mrs J pounds 4,000, plus pounds 800 for unnecessary legal charges and pounds 200 for the inconvenience caused.

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Dr G wanted to buy an pounds 80,000 cottage in France. Solicitor P claimed expertise, but sought a pounds 275 increase on an agreed fixed fee of pounds 500 and proved unable to interpret French legal documents. He asked for a further pounds 100 to provide a translation.

The Bureau declined to take any action. While Dr G had not lost any money, he lost confidence in Mr P and felt he had to instruct other solicitors. Compensation of pounds 250 was recomended.

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Solicitor G had acted on behalf of Miss E's late aunt. Miss E complained that Mr G had not informed her aunt that he would be charging for his services but gave the impression that he was acting as a favour to her husband.

The Bureau insisted there had been no breach of the Law Society's professional standards on costs, but the Ombudsman found there was no evidence on file to suggest costs had been discussed at all. The pounds 2,500 that Mr G charged meant an unexpected decrease in the value of the estate. pounds 400 compensation was recommended.

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Barrister Y was advising Mr H on his divorce. Miss Y returned her brief for a hearing when she had known for some time that she might not be able to represent Mr H owing to commitments in another case. Mr H's distress was exacerbated by the "complacent attitude" of the replacement barrister. The Ombudsman recommended that both barristers each pay Mr H pounds 500.