The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) have recently announced an update to the rules will be implemented from 1 April 2023 following two recent rounds of consultation. In the briefing to the update, the SLCC sets out that one of the key considerations in their update is the move to a digital and paperless approach to the SLCC's operations and engagement with the legal profession.

Key changes

Updates have been made to the rules to minimise and remove barriers to digitisation of the process. Written communications are now taken to include communications sent by electronic means. Mediations, oral hearings and determination committees can take place, where appropriate, by telephone or video conference. When the SLCC is obtaining information relating to a complaint, the SLCC may require the format of that information to be electronic.

The updated rules also seek to clarify and simplify the administrative barriers to making a complaint. when a complaint is deemed to have been registered. A complaint must be submitted in writing and registered as received by the Commission. For the complaint to be registered it must:

  • identify the complainer clearly and provide contact details for the complainer;
  • contain sufficient information for the Commission to understand the factual basis of the complaint;
  • if being made on behalf of another person, clearly identify that person and evidence of that person's authority to pursuer the complaint.

    Once a complaint is registered it will be deemed to have been made on the date all the above information is received by the SLCC.

    A review of the rules on time limits means the SLCC will not accept a complaint if it is made more than three years after the date of conduct or failure complained of or three years after the date on which the services ended in relation to a services complaint. This brings the small number of service complaints relating to services instructed pre-April 2017 in line with the time limits required for making other service and conduct complaints. The updated rules clarify that the SLCC may accept a conduct, regulatory or services complaint that was not made within the time limit if in the opinion of the Commission there are exceptional reasons the complaint was not made sooner or if the matter complained about is exceptional.

    The SLCC can also choose not to accept a complaint if the substance of the complaint has been subject of a prior complaint that has already been rejected for not being made timeously.

    The updated rules also introduce new powers for the SLCC to hear complaints for both licensed legal services providers and approved regulators in light of the introduction into the Scottish legal market of alternative business structures.

    The SLCC state the updated rules demonstrate their focus on facilitating resolution of complaints. These updates are in line with the general theme of recognition of the legal profession's move towards digitisation and clarification to assist in the efficiency and effectiveness of the SLCC.

    In addition, the Law Society of Scotland has recently introduced a new rule to support the SLCC's move to make the complaints process more efficient. This new rule clarifies and emphasises the duties solicitors have in cooperating with the SLCC and makes a failure to respond to the SLCC's statutory notices a clear conduct issue. This new rule could see firms failing to engage with the SLCC facing further complaints. It is hoped that this collaborative approach between the Law Society of Scotland and SLCC will help make the complaints process more efficient for all concerned and assist in protecting the reputation of the profession.