The Legal Ombudsman has today published an online list of complaints relating to 770 law firms across England and Wales.
The list shows the collated names of lawyers or law firms involved in complaints which have led to a formal decision by an ombudsman. It will be published quarterly, with the first quarter, from April to July this year, containing around 920 decisions in total.
Information contained in the list includes the number of ombudsman decisions regarding each of the firms featured in the data; the area of law; the date of the decision; the nature of the remedy awarded; and the reason for the complaint.
Chief legal ombudsman Adam Sampson said: ‘What we are publishing is factual data, not opinion, and what we are trying to do with this policy is give objective information about the way the market is operating.’
The list is designed to promote consumer interests and transparency, and to encourage higher standards within the legal profession. It follows a lengthy consultation with the profession and takes account of the practice of other ombudsman schemes. An updated list of decisions will be published every three months, with the next due to appear in November.
Chair of the Office for Legal Complaints Elizabeth France said: ‘We hope this information will help manage consumer expectations of what the Legal Ombudsman can offer and encourage improvement in complaint-handling by lawyers.’
This list was originally due to be published in August but was postponed amid administrative problems. The ombudsman denied the delay was as a result of solicitors' complaints and has rejected claims that publishing complaints constitutes a 'naming and shaming' policy.
However the Law Society today questioned how effective the data could be in its present form. A spokesman said: ‘Millions of clients instruct thousands of solicitors each year - with a tiny percentage resulting in complaints to the ombudsman and an even smaller fraction requiring a remedy from the ombudsman. It is unclear how the publication of this partial and potentially misleading data will be of any real benefit to consumers.’
When the decision to publish was made last November, the Law Society stated that it would not help consumers and would instead penalise firms that do high volumes of work even where they generate relatively few complaints.