Our Complaints Procedure
If a client has a grievance, the first step is to offer a sincere apology. Whether or not you feel that you are to blame for the issue, our clients’ opinions are important and if they feel they have cause for a complaint then it is certain that we could have handled the situation better.
Secondly, see if you can solve their grievance quickly and efficiently. An example of this would be if a client feels you have not kept them up to date on a matter well enough. After offering an apology, you should give them a full update and explain when you will next contact them. You should ensure that this next contact happens as planned, and endeavour to ensure this continues throughout the retainer.
If a client suggests they have a complaint, or states that they would like to make a complaint, they should be provided with our Client Complaint Form which is easy for clients to use and understand.
What Will Happen Next
- All Client Complaint Forms are forwarded to the Complaints Manager
- The Complaints Manager will open a separate file for the complaint and record the details in the Firm’s Complaint Management Form. This form will be kept at the front of the file. This must be done by the end of the day following receipt of the Client Complaint Form.
- The Complaints Manager will then investigate the complaint, by asking the relevant members of staff to reply to the complaint or provide further details.
- If necessary, the Complaints Manager will meet with the relevant members of staff to discuss the situation. The Complaints Manager will acknowledge the complaint within five working days from the date of receipt of the Client Complaint Form and will invite the complainant to a meeting to discuss the complaint and attempt to resolve it. In any case the Firm will send a response to the complainant within eight weeks from the date of the complaint.
- If the complainant is not able or does not want to attend a meeting, the Complaints Manager will explain in writing, and if possible also by telephone, the outcome of their investigations and a suggestion for resolving the complaint.
- If a meeting is held, the Complaints Manager will write to the complainant within two working days of the meeting, confirming the discussions that took place and any solutions that have been agreed. A letter sent to the complainant at this stage will contain details of what to do if the complainant is still unhappy. The complainant will be asked to write a ‘secondary complaint letter’ to the firm explaining why they are unhappy with the conclusion.
- The firm will then arrange for a review of the Complaints Manager’s decision. This will happen in one of the following ways:
- Another Principal or senior member of staff will review the complaint, and if necessary, re-investigate the details of the complaint. The local Law Society or another firm of solicitors will be asked to review the complaint. The Complaints Manager will ask the complainant to agree to independent mediation.
- The Complaints Manager will write to the complainant within five working days of the conclusion of the review, detailing the outcome of the review, and what the firm’s final position is with regards to the complaint. This letter will contain details of the Legal Ombudsman, who should be contacted if the complainant is still not satisfied.
These details are:
Phone : 0300 555 0333 (Calls to the Legal Ombudsman cost the same as a normal 01 or 02 landline number, even from a mobile phone, and are recorded for training and monitoring purposes).
If you are calling from overseas, please telephone +44 121 245 3050.
Email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Address is Legal Ombudsman, PO Box 6167, Slough, SL1 0EH.
Complaints to the LeO
The Legal Ombudsman has given a maximum of eight weeks for the complaint to be resolved. In some cases it may be expected to be dealt with sooner if it is more desirable.
Once the eight week period has elapsed, the Legal Ombudsman will normally accept the complaint for investigation even if it has not yet been fully dealt with by the lawyer or the firm involved.
As a result of this it is preferable for us to deal with complaints quickly and try to resolve them before they are referred to LeO.
Delay is dealing with complaints is as annoying for clients as the complaint itself. Even if a complainant does not return to us for legal advice in future, a complainant whose complaint is resolved quickly is less likely to discourage others from using our services. Also the LeO will impose a charge on the firm if the complaint has not been properly handled, even if the complaint is not upheld.
The COLP will receive details on the Complaints Portal, which allows lawyers to manage all their contact with the LeO in one place, for example complaints details, forwarding information to LeO, confirming resolutions to complaints and accessing decisions on complaints, case fees and publishing decisions. Setting up an account is advisory and not mandatory. Details of any account will be maintained by the COLP.
The client can access https://www.legalombudsman.org.uk/helping-the-public/make-a-complaint/cat/
Putting Things Right
As stated above, a sincere apology should be offered if a client has a grievance.
The Complaints Manager will include a full apology in his letter after the investigation, unless this is wholly inappropriate in the circumstances.
A prompt and a proportionate offer of redress may be made by a fee-earner with whom a grievance has been made, or by the Complaints Manager on investigation or review of a complaint.
The Complaints Manager must give permission for an offer to be made before the offer is communicated to the client. Offers made should give consideration to the impact on the complainant, while also recognising any upset and inconvenience caused by the complaint and the initial wrong doing.
All complaints are to be thoroughly documented as follows:
- The Firm’s Complaint Management Form must be at the front of every Complaint File;
- The Client Complaint Form must be next in the file;
- Thereafter, other items must be in date order;
- A copy all relevant items of communication between the complainant and the relevant members of staff must be placed in the file as evidence;
- Any other evidence should be put in the file;
- All communication between the complainant and the Complaints Manager must be placed in the file;
- All communication between the Complaints Manager and relevant members of staff must be placed in the file; Any notes made by the Complaints Manager must be dated and placed in the file;
- Any attendance notes from meetings should be placed in the file.
A report will be completed and distributed every twelve months on complaints trends by the Complaints Manager. The practice will endeavour to support personnel subject to complaints, but if training or other remedial action cannot overcome problems which may exist, personnel will not be left to cope with work for which they are unsuited.
The complaints procedure outlined above shall be reviewed on an annual basis to verify that it is in effective operation throughout the firm.