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Complaints against a Guernsey Advocate

Guidance note about complaints

If you are dissatisfied with the actions of the Advocate you have engaged and wish to make a complaint, you should contact their firm and follow the internal complaints process that such firm has in place.

If you have completed the internal complaints process of the relevant firm and remain dissatisfied with the outcome of that, then you may wish to consider making a complaint to the Guernsey Bar.  All such complaints to the Guernsey Bar should be made to the Batonnier in the first instance and notification of a complaint should include a fully completed Complaints Form.

 

The Batonnier will consider, on a case by case basis, whether it is appropriate (whether by reason of conflict or otherwise) to delegate his functions in respect of a particular complaint to the Deputy Batonnier.

Complaining about fees

Ideally, you should aim to avoid any disputes regarding fees by ensuring that you and your Advocate have discussed and share a clear understanding of the charges. This includes both the agreed upon hourly rate (or fixed sum for specific tasks) and the frequency at which invoices will be issued. It is important to receive a fee statement within a reasonable timeframe to stay informed about the financial position based on the work being undertaken.

 

However, if you find yourself dissatisfied with the amount billed, it is advisable to approach your Advocate directly. Articulate your reasons for believing you have been overcharged and request a comprehensive breakdown and explanation of the incurred fees. Your Advocate may be willing to revise their fees in light of your feedback.

 

Keep in mind that there exists an implied term in the retainer (contract) between the Advocate and client that their fees will be reasonable. Merely agreeing to an hourly rate does not grant the Advocate free rein to charge an unreasonably long amount of time for a given task; only a reasonable duration commensurate with the circumstances of the case is justifiable. If you are still dissatisfied, escalate the matter to the senior partner of the Advocate's firm.

 

Take note of the stipulations outlined in the Advocates' code of conduct regarding fees and what a client is entitled to be informed of in this regard. You may have legitimate grounds for raising a complaint with the Bâtonnier.

 

In the event that you face legal action over fees, it is prudent to settle any undisputed amount. Seek professional advice if the dispute is of any substance.

Complaining about an Advocate

Every Advocate is an Officer of the Royal Court and subject to its ultimate authority and discipline.

 

The starting point with any complaint against a member of the Guernsey Bar is to raise the matter directly with the Advocate concerned. It is possible that there may have been a misunderstanding or that there exists a satisfactory explanation for the source of concern.

 

If the complainant remains dissatisfied, they should then escalate the issue to the senior partner of the Advocate's firm. In the case of a Crown Advocate, the complaint should be directed to HM Procureur. If the Advocate is employed elsewhere, the complaint should be raised with their employer.

 

Should the complainant still find no resolution, they should formally report the matter to the Bâtonnier of the Guernsey Bar.

 

The Bâtonnier will notify the Advocate of the complaint and its substance and invite written comment. If it becomes evident to the Bâtonnier and the president of the Chambre that there is a genuine complaint of significant nature (i.e., a case to answer), the Bâtonnier will refer the matter to the registrar of the disciplinary panel, known as the "Chambre de Discipline". It is important to note that the Chambre deals solely with misconduct and not cases of negligence, unless such circumstances imply misconduct. Additionally, the Chambre does not have the authority to award damages to a complainant. The tribunal consists of three members, each selected from a panel of Advocates, a panel of senior lawyers, and a panel of lay persons.

 

The Registrar will examine the complaint and invite (further) representations from the complainant and the Advocate concerned. If the Registrar determines that a claim of misconduct is substantiated, they may convene a hearing of the Chambre. During this hearing, the Advocate will have the opportunity to present their side of the matter. The Chambre will ultimately reach a conclusion, either dismissing or upholding the complaint. In cases where the complaint is upheld, the Chambre may impose a range of sanctions, varying from a private reprimand to suspension from practice. In exceptionally serious cases, the Chambre may refer the matter to the Royal Court for deliberation on whether the Advocate should be disbarred.

The detailed provisions concerning the constitution, proceedings and powers of the Chambre are set out in The Guernsey Bar (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Law, 2007 (as amended). There are various criminal penalties for falsely claiming to be qualified to act in Guernsey as an Advocate admitted by the Royal Court of Guernsey or as a Barrister or solicitor.

Making a Complaint

A copy of the form to be used for making a complaint against an Advocate and associated guidance can be found below.

Complaints Guidance Note
Complaints Form

Marcus Leese

Bâtonnier

Robin Gist

Deputy Bâtonnier

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