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Solicitors given guidance on vulnerable clients

The body that represents solicitors in England and Wales has issued new guidance to help solicitors meet the needs of clients with physical and learning disabilities and mental health problems.

The Law Society practice note on vulnerable clients was issued on 2 July following calls from law firms and other organisations, including learning disability charity Mencap. The guidance aims to help solicitors:

  • identify vulnerable clients and their needs at an early stage
  • communicate with them more effectively
  • work with third parties, including advocates and carers
  • help clients to achieve the best possible legal outcomes.

The guidance uses the term ‘vulnerable’ to describe a range of situations that could place a client at a disadvantage in accessing legal services, and focuses on:

  • clients who have capacity to make decisions and provide instructions, but who require support to use a solicitor’s services and give instructions
  • clients who lack mental capacity to make decisions, for whom a range of statutory and other safeguards must be followed
  • clients who are vulnerable to undue influence or duress.

Law Society president Andrew Caplen said: “Vulnerable people face particular obstacles in accessing justice, including getting help from a solicitor. We have produced this important guidance to support our members and to help their clients to get the legal advice and tailored support that they need.”

Research by the Law Society at the end of 2014 showed that nearly two-thirds of firms (59 per cent) had provided legal services to vulnerable clients in the preceding 12 months.