Complaints about lawyers are taking six months even to be looked at, the Legal Ombudsman has admitted as it struggles with a backlog of cases. Visitors to the ombudsman website are being told that due to a ‘significant’ volume of cases, it is currently taking longer than expected to assess and investigate complaints.
The extended timescale leaves both clients and lawyers in limbo for months waiting to know if there is even a complaint worth investigating.
The ombudsman adds: ‘We thank you for your patience and would like to reassure you that our teams are working very hard to resolve complaints fairly and as quickly as possible.’
The Office for Legal Complaints, which operates the Legal Ombudsman, has published its business plan and budget with an eye on priorities for the 2019/20 year. According to the plan, organisation aims to improve the quality of its work and develop dispute resolution skills, build and maintain trust and confidence through ‘consistently’ good performance, and provide faster and more effective redress through a new website platform.
Introducing the document, OLC chair Wanda Goldwag said: ‘The foundations for sustainable future performance are in place. Although performance against our new KPIs has improved during 2018-19, it remains mixed; in 2019-20 we will achieve consistent and sustainable performance.’
The ombudsman changed its performance measures in the current year after a year in which it missed its time targets in every month. According to its 2017/2018 annual report, LeO resolved 9% of cases within 90 days, against a target of 60%. In the same month, 63% of cases were resolved within 180 days (the target was 90%) and 7% of cases were not resolved within a year.
In its business plan, the ombudsman notes the revised performance measures have ‘worked well’ since April and more ‘stretching’ timeliness targets may be set once legacy caseloads have been cleared.
The ombudsman estimates it will resolve around 7,400 cases in 2019/20 (up from 8,000 this year), with the average cost for each case increasing 5% to £1,663.
The indicative budget is £12.3m, which is a fall from the £12.7m expenditure this year but still higher than any other year since 2014/15.