SRA urges firms to take care with vulnerable clients

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) have urged Solicitors to ensure close attention is paid to clients individual needs, particularly the most vulnerable members of society, and ensuring that they deliver a proper level of service.
The SRA’s new Principles and Code of Conduct states that “Solicitors should provide a proper standard of service to clients”, and Principle 5 lists outcomes and provides more detail on how this should be achieved.  The SRA are particularly aware of risks to vulnerable clients not receiving the right service
Firms with a vulnerable client base may need to think carefully about their approach to delivering the outcomes.
Specifically mentioned are that clients should be able to make informed decisions about the services they need and the options available to them about how their matter is handled, and the importance of the clients receiving the best possible information about the likely cost of their matter both at the outset and as appropriate during the matter as it progresses.
SRA Executive Director, Samantha Barrass, said: 
"Firms need to think carefully about how to deliver an appropriate approach to client care for those who may be vulnerable for any physical, social, or psychological reasons. We think at least some firms already need to consider their systems and processes with this in mind. Moreover, with the foreshadowed changes in legal aid, we think the risk that standards may drop has increased, so this is a priority for engagement with relevant firms.”
"For example, if a firm specialises in family law and has a client base where some do not speak English particularly well, it is unlikely that simply putting a lot of information into a long client care letter will be sufficient. Yet there are firms who have told me that they do just that! They do it because it is what they have always done, they thought it was compliant with the old code, and are assuming it will continue to be compliant.”
"Under the old regulatory framework, compliance might have been achieved by providing that client with a letter detailing all the ins and outs of the legal process, and what the firm would be providing. For many clients under the new regime, this may fit their needs; for others it may not.”
"It is clear that the same approach for each client does not always work, particularly when they are vulnerable."
What new systems do you have in place and how do you assess whether a Client should be classed as “vulnerable”?
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