Can I Sue a Solicitor?

Jan Samuel

Solicitors owe a duty of care to their clients to provide competent legal advice, and when that duty is breached, the client can sue the solicitor for damages to compensate them for the losses they have suffered. 

When a solicitor breaches their duty of care to a client, this is called professional negligence. Solicitors should carry professional negligence insurance, so if you bring a succesful claim against a solicitor, they should be able to pay damages and costs to you, without you having to take separate enforcement action.

Claims against solicitors must be brought within six years of the negligent advice being given to a client. It can be difficult in some cases to work out when the six year period starts running, and so it is important to seek legal advice as quickly as possible, if you think you have a claim against a solicitor. 

Sometimes, solicitors can try to hide behind advice provided by a barrister in a case. However, the case of Langsam v Beachcroft LLP confirmed that the solicitor had a duty to consider whether the barrister's advice was plainly wrong. If the barrister is obviously wrong, the solicitor is supposed to exercise their own judgement and advise the client accordingly. This case is also important as it considered whether the client had been properly advised about the level of settlement. A solicitor can be held to be negligent if they advise a client to settle for too little. 

Solicitors can be sued for the advice they fail to give, as well as advice positively given. In the 2015 case of Orientfield Holdings Ltd v Bird & Bird LLP the solicitors failed to advise the purchaser of a property that they were aware of plans for a significant development near the property. The client pulled out of the purchase after contracts had been exchanged, and the solicitors had to reimburse their client for the losses suffered.

Even where solicitors have won a case for their clients, they still need to take reasonable steps to ensure that their clients receive settlement monies. In the 2016 case of Agouman v Leigh Day the solicitors were held liable to claimants in the Ivory Coast who had successfully sued for damages relating to the escape of chemical waste, after damages were paid into a bank account which had seen fraudulent activity. This meant thousands of successful claimants ended up with nothing, but they were able to sue the solicitors for these losses. 

Negligent advice from solicitors can mean that a client loses a chance to bring a claim. In the case of Perry v Raleys Solicitors the client was not advised that he could bring a personal injury claim and he had therefore lost the chance to do so. This case established that the judge would have to consider the percentage chance of success of the underlying personal injury claim. If a case had a 50:50 chance of success, the negligent solicitor would have to pay their client 50% of the value of the personal injury claim he had been unable to bring. 

If you have suffered losses as the result of negligent advice from a solicitor, you should take legal advice about what to do next, as quickly as possible. Samuels Solicitors is a niche litigation law firm, with a specialism in dealing with claims against solicitors. When clients have a very strong case, we may be able to act under the terms of a conditional fee agreement, also known as a no win no fee agreement. 

If you have been let down by a negligent solicitor and want to know whether you can sue for your losses, contact us today for a free discussion with one of our experts.