Number of High Court negligence cases against law firms halves

The number of High Court cases against solicitors has dropped by 47%, according to law firm RPC.

The number of cases brought against firms in 2013-14 was 418, with 218 cases brought in 2014-15 although RPC say much of the pain from the previous year is yet to be felt with many cases still frozen. Despite the fall number of cases is still 55% higher than in 2012-13.

Much of this potential litigation involves property or conveyancing disputes over subprime mortgages originating during the financial crisis. Solicitors who contributed to clients purchasing these property assets at inflated valuations have found themselves subject to professional negligence claims, often running to hundreds of thousands of pounds, if not into the millions.

Conveyancing is still also the most complained about area of law, with 23% of complaints to the legal ombudsman who put it down to “A failure to advise clients appropriately, delays, and poor costs information usually drive conveyancing related complaints to the scheme.”

Speaking about the drop in the number of cases against firms, Joe Bryant, Partner at RPC, said: “The drop in the number of new cases is substantial but it does not mean that solicitors have seen the back of recessionary claims just yet.

“A large number of property and conveyancing cases are still sitting there dormant for now, whilst the Claimants and their legal teams accumulate the evidence they need to bring their cases in front of a Court.

“The idea behind standstill agreements is that they give Claimants some extra time over and above the official time limits within which to finalise their investigations, in circumstances where they would otherwise be forced to start litigation and incur expensive Court fees and other legal costs.

“However, another effect is to keep the cloud of litigation hanging over the Defendant’s head, so they are only used sparingly. Sadly, due to the volume of claims that institutional lenders have pursued against solicitors and valuers since the recession began, we have seen a significant number of requests for these agreements over the past year or so, as Claimants have struggled to get all of their claims up and running within time.”

Today's Conveyancer