The Lay Observer (Ms Marian Cree – see below) receives and examines guidelines about the complaints process operated by the Law Society of Northern Ireland and about the way the Client Complaints Committee in the Law Society handles complaints about solicitors.
The Lay Observer:
- Comments on the process used by the Law Society and on the quality of the service provided;
- Examines individual allegations about the way the Society has treated a particular complaint;
- Makes a formal annual report to the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, the Government and the Council of the Law Society on the nature of complaints to the Society and how they are dealt with.
Please note that The Lay Observer is a lay person. She is therefore not legally qualified, and nor is she permitted to be, under the legislation. She can therefore not give you legal opinion.
The legislation under which The Lay Observer operates is the Solicitors Order (Northern Ireland) Order 1976, and Solicitors (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) Order 1989.
Marian Cree was appointed by the Minister of Finance on 3 April 2017 under the provisions of the Legal Complaints and Regulation Act (Northern Ireland) 2016 (the ‘Act’). That Act provides for the replacement of the Lay Observer role with a ‘new’ Legal Services Oversight Commissioner (LSOC), however the secondary legislation necessary to enact all of the LSOC powers has not yet been made. As a result, Ms Cree has been acting in a dual role as both LSOC, carrying out some preliminary work, and, primarily, as the Lay Observer. The Lay Observer role relates only to complaints associated with solicitors and ultimately the Law Society. The LSOC role is more embracing in the context that it will, once implemented, relate to both solicitors and barristers. Although the Act provides for a LSOC report, that provision is not yet commenced, instead Ms Cree reports under the existing Lay Observer legislation, the Solicitors Order (Northern Ireland) 1976. It focuses on her work as Lay Observer but does also include some narrative on her work as LSOC.
Access more information about the review of legal services.