The SLCC deals with complaints against lawyers and its decisions can be appealed to the Court of Session. Brodies has been a member of the SLCC's legal panel since 2014 and litigation is core to our work for the SLCC, with Niall McLean and Christine O’Neill regularly appearing as solicitor advocates in the Court of Session on its behalf. We also advise the SLCC on its statutory powers and duties.

Key highlights 

  • Complaints against lawyers can be about the legal service they provide or their personal conduct. SLCC categorised some complaints as 'hybrid' – involving both service and conduct concerns. 
  • In 2016, the Court of Session decided that this practice was incompetent: the legislation governing SLCC's work did not allow for 'hybrid' complaints.
  • That decision created a dilemma – what was to happen to other complaints that had not yet been finally determined and so remained “live”, but had been wrongly categorised as hybrid? 
  • The SLCC began to recategorise those complaints while the Law Society of Scotland believed that existing hybrid issues should simply be allowed to make their way through the system. 
  • Parties agreed on a 'test case' to debate the key issue: when can a regulator alter decisions already taken in live cases where its previous course of action has been declared to have been wrong?
  • We acted for the SLCC throughout. Chairman, Christine O'Neill, represented the SLCC in the hearing with support from colleagues in our Government, Regulation and Competition team.


By a majority the Inner House of the Court of Session decided that the SLCC acted lawfully in "recategorising" complaints previously decided as 'hybrid'. The majority considered that in recategorising the SLCC was “acting properly in response to a court ruling that its initial hybrid categorisation was unlawful and ultra vires”, and its approach was “in keeping with the requirements of good administration.”

This is a significant case about the powers and duties of statutory bodies and how they should respond when the courts have found an earlier course of conduct to be unlawful. What can then be done depends crucially on the statutory framework under which they operate.

We played an important role in defending the SLCC's approach when challenged by the Law Society. We managed a complex litigation process involving more than 12 cases and the selection and debate of a relevant test case.


Christine O'Neill KC

Chair & Partner

Niall McLean

Partner & Solicitor Advocate