The legal complaints handler has renewed efforts to make solicitors meet their obligations for helping disgruntled clients.
Research from the Solicitors Regulation Authority and Legal Ombudsman (LeO) shows that just a third of firms tell clients they have a further option of redress at the end of their internal complaints procedure. This is despite it being a regulatory requirement.
Now fresh guidance has been issued for law firms demonstrating why it is important to notify clients about the legal ombudsman at the time of engagement and again at the end of a complaints process.
The guidance features advice about which stages to signpost clients and the suggested text. It states: ‘LSB requirements mean that simply signposting at the start of the process is not enough. There is still a requirement to signpost at the end of the process. Signposting to LeO makes customers aware of all of their options and concludes the complaint by referring to a statutory independent scheme.’
The lack of signposting can also mean cases are strung out longer than necessary: clients have a six-month time limit to complaint to the Legal Ombudsman after a final response is issued by the firm, but this does not apply if the client was not made aware of the limit.
Firms are encouraged to tell clients their options through their own website, initial engagement documents, when they raise any dissatisfaction and when the first-tier complaints process has finished.
Research published by the SRA and LeO in December 2017 found clients were routinely unaware of their right to complain about poor service by lawyers. Just 4% of consumers recalled receiving all the required information about a further complaints procedure at the end of the internal process with their legal service provider.