If you look at the recent legal press you might be forgiven for thinking that there is at least one growing area of law that is doing well in the recession – complaints. We get bombarded daily with calls to deal with them better, quicker and more expensively.

Other professions and organisations deal with complaints very differently. I heard on the news today a patient’s family just received an apology for appallingly bad care in hospital. And on my annual visit to the January sales last month I noticed a long queue of people returning goods, presumably received as Christmas gifts. The particular retailer involved has made a success of a no-quibble returns policy.

But the recipient of a horrible jumper or ill-fitting socks does not then get £200 for the ‘disappointment’; they get a different jumper or a new pair of socks. The returns policy encourages people to spend knowing they can change their mind. I expect the store’s strategy is not aimed at increasing the quality of socks or jumpers but increasing its profits. And good luck to them.

What is our complaints regime aimed at?

What does work well is that most complaints are handled internally. At least clients have to complain to the firm first and keeping a register of complaints is an effective way of finding out what is going on. The central question is: how well does our complaints system serve the profession?

David Pickup is a partner at Aylesbury-based Pickup & Scott