The Society's practice note on vulnerable clients has been issued in response to calls for support from law firms and other significant partners, including Mencap.
Using case scenarios, the guidance aims to help solicitors to:
• 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
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 Society found that nearly two-thirds of firms (59%) had provided legal services to vulnerable clients in the preceding 12 months. Those solicitors working with vulnerable clients in that period described one in five (21%) of their clients as vulnerable.
The guidance uses the term ‘vulnerable’ to describe a range of situations which 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
Alongside the main guidance aimed at solicitors is an easy read guide for clients, supporting them to access solicitors more easily. Both are available at: http://www.lawsociety.org.uk/Support-services/Advice/Practice-notes/meeting-the-needs-of-vulnerable-clients-july-2015/