It is the nature of a solicitor’s job that they act for people from all parts of the social spectrum. Inevitably, this will include people who are vulnerable, such as the very young or old, or people with a disability. Solicitors have a duty under the Equality Act 2010 to make reasonable adjustments, to enable vulnerable people to enjoy the same level of service that could be expected by a non-vulnerable person. Such duties are also incorporated into the solicitor’s code of conduct.
Steps that solicitor should take when representing a vulnerable client have been identified by the Law Society in a recent practice note. Routine steps include identifying vulnerable clients and their needs at an early stage. Assessing the best way to communicate with the client and whether this will require the involvement of a third party. Assessing any issues that relate to mental capacity.
Unfortunately, these steps are not always completed. Whatever the reason for the failure, the inevitable consequence is that it will prevent the solicitor from properly engaging with their client and understanding their needs and objectives. The effects of this can be devastating for a vulnerable client. It could lead to an improperly drafted will, or a power of attorney granted to the wrong person. It lead to the execution of a suitable commercial contract, or the under settlement of litigation. If any of the above happens, then the solicitor has acted negligently and you may be due compensation.