To understand whether you have a claim against a solicitor we first have to define “professional negligence”. This can be a confusing term but, put simply, it means that a professional, such as a solicitor, has failed to perform their responsibilities to the required standard and has caused you a loss.
If you think you have a professional negligence claim against a solicitor, you will need to prove three things:
That you were owed a duty of care by your solicitor not to cause the type of harm suffered;
A duty of care is normally established when you instruct or retain a solicitor to act on your behalf. A retainer, usually in the form of an engagement letter and/or terms of business, will set out what the solicitor agreed to do for you and their duties are usually established by reference to this. In addition, a solicitor will owe their clients general duties under common law. In both cases, the duties are generally expressed as requiring a solicitor to act with reasonable care and skill.
That the solicitor breached that duty of care; and
The standard required by a solicitor is not one of perfection. A mere error might not amount to a breach of duty. Generally a solicitor will be found to be negligent if they have not conformed to a practice accepted as being proper by responsible members of his/her profession.
That this breach directly resulted in you suffering financial loss.
If you are able to establish that a duty of care exists and that it was breached, then you may be able to pursue your solicitor for compensation if their actions directly caused you to suffer a financial loss. This is known as establishing causation and loss. The rules relating to this are complex.
When a claim has been brought and proven for professional negligence against a solicitor they will usually have the benefit of insurance to cover them for the losses claimed in successful cases. They may also be able to rely on limitation of liability clauses in their terms of business.