We are committed to providing a quality legal service to you and to all our clients. Consequently, when something is perceived to have gone wrong or any client believes they have reason to complain, it is essential that we have an effective procedure to assist the early resolution of the problem. Only by doing so can we maintain the quality standards we have set ourselves and improve them by learning from what may have gone wrong and from what our clients tell us.
We are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and you have the right to complain to the regulator if you have concerns about our behaviour. Further information is available on the SRA website.
There is also a body called the Legal Ombudsman, an independent body that handles complaints about legal services. Their details are shown at the end of this policy.
The Legal Ombudsman has produced three helpful booklets to guide you if you have a complaint. We can let you have copies on request or you can find them on the Legal Ombudsman’s website. They are called “How We Sort Out Problems With Your Service Provider”, “Investigating Your Complaint” and “When Should I Complain To My Service Provider”.
You can ask the Legal Ombudsman to become involved at the end of our internal complaints procedure, if you are unhappy with the outcome. The Legal Ombudsman has a helpline if you need to speak to them about how to make a complaint. Calls are charged at a local rate and will be recorded. There is no charge for the Ombudsman’s services.
In the first instance you should address any concern directly with the person dealing with your matter. You should be able to talk to them frankly about all sorts of things so that some complaints (and these are likely to be minor issues) might lend themselves to be resolved by a simple phone call with the person handling your matter.
However if you are not comfortable speaking to the person concerned about the problem or they are unable to resolve the concern to your satisfaction, you should address the complaint to the appropriate Head of Department identified in our initial letter of engagement, confirming your instructions (the partner responsible for the supervision of the matter)
Whilst the Head of Department will retain overall responsibility for the handling of your complaint, some of the steps set out below may be undertaken by someone designated by them to deal with the matter.
NOTE: Although it is not essential, in making any complaint, it would be helpful if you could provide details of your concerns in writing (if you have not already done so).
Wherever possible, complaints are best resolved within the department handling your matter. The person dealing with your complaint will inform James Wallbank, our Complaints Partner.
What will happen next?
- We will, within three days of receipt, acknowledge receipt of your complaint, set out our understanding of it and request your confirmation or seek any necessary clarification. We will also confirm who will be dealing with the complaint.
- The complaint will be registered in our Central Register (for monitoring and management information purposes) and a separate file will be opened.
- We will acknowledge receipt of your confirmation letter or telephone call and confirm what will happen next and agree a timetable for dealing with your complaint.
- We will then commence investigating your complaint.
This may involve the following steps:
- the person who acts for you may be asked to provide a response to your complaint
- the response will be examined together with the file and your complaint and, if necessary, further information will be sought from the person who acts for you
- you may then be invited to meet with the individual handling your complaint to discuss and hopefully resolve your complaint.
If you do not wish to attend a meeting or it is for some reason impractical, we will write to you with a detailed response to your complaint and with any suggestions we have for resolving it. If a meeting does take place, we will still write to you to confirm the outcome of the meeting and any agreed solution arrived at.
If, at the meeting or from your written reply to our detailed written response, you remain dissatisfied with our findings and our proposals to resolve your complaint, we will then arrange for our decision to be reviewed.
In such a case our Complaints Partner James Wallbank (or other Partner if James Wallbank was involved in dealing with the complaint originally) will review the handling of your complaint, the decision made and why you are dissatisfied with the decision.
NOTE: The time scale for conducting the review process above will be notified to you within seven days of receipt of your request for a review. You should receive notification of the outcome of the review within 14 days of this acknowledgement.
The outcome of the review will assess our initial handling of your complaint and our decision upon it.
If you remain dissatisfied with how your complaint has been handled you may refer the matter to the Legal Ombudsman, who are the solicitor's regulatory body to whom you may refer your complaint once we have concluded our professional obligation to try and resolve it.
Legal Ombudsman time limits
Before it will consider a complaint, the Legal Ombudsman generally requires a firm’s internal complaints procedure has been exhausted.
It expects complaints to be made within certain time limits:
- within 1 year of the date of the act or omission about which you are concerned; or
- within 1 year of you realising there was a concern.
You must also refer your concerns to the Legal Ombudsman within 6 months of our final response to you. The Ombudsman will allow us a period of 8 weeks to resolve your complaint.
For further information and where special rules apply, you should contact the Legal Ombudsman directly.
Legal Ombudsman’s details are;
- Legal Ombudsman, PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton WV1 9WJ
- Helpline: 0300 555 0333
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: www.legalombudsman.org.uk