Solicitors set for new guidance on complaints

Topics: Regulation and compliance

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Regulators plan to consult on what information solicitors should provide to clients about their options and procedures for making service complaints.

According to section 112 of the 2007 Legal Services Act (LSA), all lawyers must notify their clients in writing of their right to make a complaint and how this can be done. Clients must also be informed at the conclusion of the complaint process of their right to take the complaint on to the Legal Ombudsman.

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Minutes of last month’s Legal Services Board meeting have revealed ‘concern’ about the relatively small number of providers who appeared to have met this obligation.

The question was also raised whether regulators ought to be obliged to ensure lawyers publish data on their handling of complaints.

A review of the effectiveness of complaints-handling found the LSB’s guidance could be updated to help consumers.

The review found all the approved regulators have first-tier complaints-handling and signposting arrangements in place.

But consumer research has found lawyers are ‘some way’ from meeting outcomes set out by the LSB.

The board papers cited research from 2011 that showed 62% of clients who were dissatisfied with their lawyer had to ask for information on complaints procedures, with only 8% being told about the Legal Ombudsman at the time.

Successive Legal Ombudsman satisfaction surveys have shown low proportions of consumers hearing about the service through their lawyer, although the proportion did rise from 17% in 2011/12 to 23% in 2013/14.

It is understood an eight-week consultation on what information regulators should be telling lawyers to provide will start at the end of this month.

According to the LSA, consumers must have confidence that complaints-handling procedures provide effective safeguards for them, and that their complaints will be dealt with ‘comprehensively and swiftly, with appropriate redress where necessary’.

An internal LSB review carried out last year found a lack of clarity among all parties about the roles and responsibilities for complaints-handling, with confusion among both lawyers and clients.

The review suggests a ‘comprehensive’ change to the guidance for practitioners to set out how regulators can encourage a clear overview of the first-tier complaints-handling process. This guidance will also set out how regulators can ‘ensure practitioners are best placed to achieve outcomes clients need’.

The consultation on new guidance comes at a time when complaints numbers have fallen significantly.

In 2012/13, the ombudsmsn service dealt with 7,360 cases, which rose to 8,055 the following year. In 2016/17 the anticipated caseload is set to be around 6,500.

Readers' comments (30)


  • Did they check what the 'consumers had said was actually accurate...?

    Rather like research on alcohol consumption, I suspect that there is a tendency to 'under-report'...

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  • Out of pure curiosity I just wondered if the Law Society can tell me, expressed as a percentage, what the suicide rate amongst small and medium size high street solicitors firms was these days?


    LB

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  • My wife who works in retail tells me that at say 10-15% of customers are aggressive, rude and objectionable. Indeed some of these customers abuse staff.

    I mention the above just show that the client is sometimes rude without justification, and sometimes irrational, arising out of the trauma of the particular legal matter in hand.

    It is against this background that our beloved regulators seek to antagonise solicitors once more, by rigging procedures to get the outcomes they desire- more costly complaints by aggressive clients who often won't accept the outcomes of their particular matters.

    I for one am sick to death of this constant lawyer bashing!

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  • For goodness sake, I am absolutely sick to death of this nonsense,

    How do I complain about the Regulator?

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  • How do I complain about New Labour's starting at least one illegal and two unwinable wars, given that they were the ones responsible for introducing this legislation?

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  • Same old defensive comments. Dont be scared of complaints and get on board like dare I say banks etc. Publish figures and be proud of low %. And the nasty customers in retail could easily be the same arrogant lawyers no ??!! 2 sides to every story.

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  • We have become a pathetic, whinging society of those who, perceiving the goods or services they have received being less than 100%, think immediately of compo. Get a life, for goodness' sake, and accept that everything does not go all your way, according to your perception of things, all of the time.

    And leave the complaints procedures for those who have been genuinely and severely let down.

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  • Dear Anonymous@ 11.42am

    You really are talking garbage

    The real point about the comments above is the constant lawyer bashing which comes from weak leadership and being used as a football.

    Clearly you have little experience of working in the real world

    Clients like retail customers can be simply not very nice people and I have had several instances of abuse directed towards staff for no reason whatsoever

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  • This no doubt comes off the back of the unacceptable fall in complaints to the Ombudsman. Evidently, a lack of or decrease in complaints means we're failing to fail our Clients properly!

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  • Anon 8.07. I agree that the legal world has been bashed far too much on various matters, but as most people on here are lawyers, or work for law firms, there is a sense of "please step into the real world". Consumers have the right to complain, and do you think lawyers are untouchable and all complaints are made up? There will be moaners in every walk of life, but if you read any marketeers views on this, they will say welcome feedback, welcome complaints, and listen to YOUR customers. Ignore at your peril - what are you scared of ? Consumers need a platform - just like how FOS works.You better get on board with it Sir.

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