When an individual instructs a solicitor, they may research and make various enquiries to establish which solicitor is best suited to their matter, seeking to find an expert in that field. Solicitors frequently instruct barristers (counsel) as part of their client’s legal team to provide advocacy and additional expertise. Solicitors often rely on advice from counsel when advising clients. Whilst a solicitor is entitled to rely on counsel’s advice, and the more specialist the nature of the advice the more reasonable reliance will be, in doing so they need to properly consider that advice rather than simply accepting the advice without further scrutiny.
Usually, the scope of duty of care between a solicitor and a client will be set out in writing in an engagement letter, but there are some circumstances in which a solicitor may assume duties to someone other than their client, which can create problems if that party is to suffer a loss. In those circumstances, a key question is whether a solicitor owes the third party a duty of care.
One of the questions we are often asked is whether an individual’s will can be amended after their death if it doesn’t reflect their intentions. This is sometimes possible under a process known as rectification, although the circumstances in which rectification is available are limited. A claim for rectification was recently considered by the court at the end of 2020 in the case of Barrett v Hammond & others.
This blog examines some of the issues which arise from giving incorrect professional advice, or failing to give advice, and sets out some practical tips to identify when professional negligence claims may arise.