Unhappy clients are not being told of their right to complain about poor service despite a regulatory obligation to 'signpost' the ombudsman scheme, the Legal Ombudsman claims.
However its headline figure - that only one-fifth of people recalled hearing about the scheme from their lawyer - is likely to be challenged as being based on a sub-set of clients by definition unhappy with their solicitor.
Another figure released today is that 72% of people complaining said their solicitor provided no signposting information or, if they did, that it was incorrect.
This was drawn from what the ombudsman's office said was a representative cross-section of 100 cases dealt with by the office.
This is the first time that the ombudsman has released such data.
It said in a statement that 'a lack of signposting has contributed to a general reduction in awareness of the ombudsman scheme, meaning consumers might not know where to go for help when things go wrong'.
Kathryn Stone (pictured), chief ombudsman, said: 'Many people could be losing their chance to put things right after receiving poor service, simply because they don’t know where to go.
'Legal regulations are quite clear that lawyers should be telling clients about how to complain if they are unhappy, and that they can bring a complaint to the LeO if they’re dissatisfied with their lawyer’s handling of a complaint.'
Law Society chief executive Catherine Dixon said: ‘We expect all solicitors to comply with their obligation to inform their clients of the existence and role of the ombudsman.
‘We have not seen the research concerned and so cannot comment on its detail or what, if anything, its findings suggest about solicitors. We will, however, be following up with the Legal Ombudsman to understand the research.’
The ombudsman resolved 6,500 complaints last year. Residential conveyancing was the most complained about area of law, accounting for 22% of complaints resolved. Family law (14%), personal injury (12%), and wills and probate (13%) were the other main areas of complaint.
The ombudsman has published a signposting pack to help lawyers.