A complaint is any expression of displeasure with our staff, people, business or the services we provide. Under the Solicitors Regulation Authority Code of Conduct we as a firm are required to operate a complaint handling procedure. All clients are informed in their client care letter of the firm's complaints procedure, and in accordance the SRA Code of Conduct they are informed who to approach in the event of any problem with the service provided. All members of the staff, and not just fee-earners should be aware of the procedure.
The SRA define a complaint as an oral or written expression of dissatisfaction which alleges that the complainant has suffered (or may suffer) financial loss, distress, inconvenience or other detriment.
As a firm we have a Complaints Procedure for dealing with complaints from clients and a designated person who is responsible for investigating and responding to all complaints and encouraging fee earners to follow good client care practices. The firm’s Client Care person is the Principal Mahir Gul
The objectives of the complaints procedure are to resolve as many complaints as possible internally to prevent complaints being made to the Legal Ombudsman; to preserve the goodwill of the client even if things have gone wrong; and to avoid future complaints by learning from our mistakes.
Some of the complaints about us may be well founded. We all make mistakes and the firm expects honesty from any fee earner when they have done so. In return, the firm will, where appropriate, offer support and guidance to the fee earner to help avoid future complaints. It is essential for our professional reputation and relationship with our clients that complaints are dealt with sympathetically, quickly and fairly.
The objectives are to ensure that the client:
- Is satisfied that their complaint has been dealt with seriously;
- Receives a prompt response;
- Receives an assurance that the matter is being reviewed;
- Is notified as soon as possible of the outcome.
Complaints Handling Procedure
A vast majority of complaints received by the Legal Ombudsman (LeO) are from complainants who are not actually interested in gaining any specific form of redress. Rather they are ordinary members of the public who simply want to have their particular matter dealt with satisfactorily. Often their complaint is a minor one such as lack of communication, delay or discourtesy. It is much less common for the cause for complaint to be for want in the quality of the actual service. Many of the complaints need not reach the LeO if the clients' problems had been resolved within the company before they became a grievance or a formal complaint.
At the outset of any matter all clients are advised and given the details of the practice's complaints procedure and the person responsible for any complaints, in their initial client care letter.
A client shall be provided with a copy of the company's complaints procedure if requested.
All complaints must be referred to the supervisor in the first instance, who will liaise with the Complaints Manager who is in overall charge of the complaints process.
- Our complaints policy
We are committed to providing a high-quality legal service to all our clients. When something goes wrong we want our clients to tell us about it. Our aim is that every complaint will improve our standards and thereby reduce the risk of potential complaints in the future.
- Our complaints procedure
- In the event of a person being contacted by a client who is unhappy about any aspect of a Fee Earners work, the matter will be initially referred to the Fee Earner dealing with the case to try and resolve the complaint directly with the fee earner. If the complaint is not resolved amicably with the fee earner, the client will be advised to complete the firm’s complaint form which is referred to the Complaints Manager Mahir Gul who will generally meet personally with the client following which he will respond to the complaint fully in writing. He can be contacted at Pace Solicitors, Gor- Ray House, 758 Great Cambridge Road, Enfield, Middlesex, EN1 3GN or by email to email@example.com
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 endeavor 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 a Client Complaint Form.
- What will happen next?
- All Client Complaint Forms are forwarded to the Complaints Manager, who will liaise with the fee earner and the client where appropriate.
- A central file is kept of any complaints made by clients; the Complaints Manager will 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 and supervise 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 invite the complainant to a meeting to discuss the complaint and attempt to resolve it. The complainant will be contacted within 5 working days of receipt of their Client Complaint Form to arrange this meeting, which should be as soon as possible and in any case within 15 working days of receipt of their Client Complaint Form.
- 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 investigation 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 Director or senior member of staff will review the complaint, and if necessary, reinvestigate 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 or Alternative Dispute Resolution.
- 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: Legal Ombudsman, PO BOX 6806, Wolverhampton, WVl 9WJ. Tel. No: 0300 555 0333. E mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Website: www.legalombudsman.org.uk
- Complaints to the LeO
- The Legal Ombudsman has given a maximum of 8 weeks for the complaint to be resolved by firms. In some cases it may be expected to be dealt with sooner if it is more desirable.
- Once the 8 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.
- Clients will need to bring a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman within 6 months of receiving a final written response from their solicitor about their complaint or within 6 years of the act or omission about which they are complaining occurred (if outside of this period, within 3 years of when they should reasonably have been aware of it).
- The Legal Ombudsman only accepts complaints from individuals, small businesses, charities or associations. If clients do not come under one of these categories, there may be restrictions on their eligibility to apply to the Legal Ombudsman.
- As a result of the above time limits and also good practice, it is preferable for us to deal with complaints quickly and try to resolve them before they are referred to LeO.
- Delays in 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.
- 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 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 convenience caused by the complaint and the initial wrongdoing.
- 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 of 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 Complaint s 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 endeavor 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.
- Procedural Review
The complaints procedure outlined above shall be reviewed on an annual basis by Mahir Gul to verify that it is in effective operation throughout the firm.
SRA Complaints Policy Update
The Solicitors Regulation Authority
If your concern relates to our conduct you may wish to make a complaint to The Solicitors Regulation Authority.
You can contact the Solicitors Regulation Authority:
• By post at SRA Report, The Cube, 199 Wharfside Street, Birmingham, B1 1RN or DX
720293 BIRMINGHAM 47;
• By telephone: 0370 606 2555;
• By email: email@example.com