The questions and answers below cover some of the most popular queries we've received so far. If your question isn't covered here, or you're not sure, please contact us.
Common questions answered
All written correspondence should be sent to Legal Ombudsman, PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton, WV1 9WJ. Our scanning partner was acquired by a new company who made the decision to move offices. This forced us to change our PO Box address. We have been assured by EDM, who provide our scanning service that there will be no further changes in the foreseeable future. All post sent to this address is subject to strict data security protocols.
Take a look at our leaflet Here to help (pdf opens in a new window). If you have a complaint that you think we can deal with, or want to know more, please contact us.
You can either phone us to explain what your compliant is about or complete our online complaint form, which will be sent to us automatically. The other option is to download our complaint form and fill this in by hand. Details of what to do with this information once it's filled in are shown on the form.
Most of us contact lawyers at difficult times in our lives. So when things go wrong it can be very frustrating. Following a few simple steps at the beginning can help sort things out before they start to look too daunting.
- • First of all, contact your lawyer and tell them what's wrong. If they can't help straight away, ask for details of how to complain to them using their own complaints procedure. Every lawyer should have such a procedure in place.
- • It's always best to follow this procedure through to the end and to put your concerns in writing. Keep a copy of your notes or letters for future reference.
- • If you're not sure about what to do, contact us.
We have official powers to receive and investigate complaints about lawyers in England and Wales. This is a free service to consumers. Our job is to look at complaints in a fair and independent way – we will not take sides. We try to resolve any problems informally, by getting both sides to agree the best way forward. But we can also insist on lawyers doing the right thing to resolve things if needs be.
If we agree there has been a problem with your lawyer's service, we can ask the lawyer and law firm to put things right by:
- • apologising to you;
- • returning any documents you may need;
- • doing more work if this can correct what went wrong;
- • refunding or reducing your legal fees; or, in a few cases
- • paying compensation if you have lost out or been badly treated (up to £50,000, although most awards are less than £1,000).
This all depends on what went wrong and what kind of additional expense or inconvenience you've had to put up with as a result. Compensation probably won't be seen as the best solution in most cases and we can't say in advance what this figure will be. It will all depend on the circumstances of each complaint: although we can award up to £50,000 in compensation, most awards are less than £1,000. Awards of amounts close to £50,000 tend to be for direct financial losses and are very uncommon.
Legal service customers can complain if they are not satisfied with a service they have received from a lawyer in England or Wales – that's any lawyer, from solicitors and barristers to legal executives and trademark attorneys.
You can complain to us if you are not satisfied with the service you've received from a lawyer or law firm you hired to provide legal services to help with things like:
- • buying and selling a house or property
- • family law such as divorce
- • wills
- • personal injury
- • intellectual property
- • criminal law
- • civil litigation
- • immigration
- • employment issues
These are just examples. If something you're worrying about isn't listed here, please contact us.
If you have already complained about a lawyer in England and Wales you should continue dealing with whoever is handling your complaint at the moment. We have been dealing with all new complaints since 6 October 2010. If you're not sure what to do, please contact us and we'll do our best to help.
No. The Legal Ombudsman is here to resolve complaints about the service provided by lawyers. We can't give legal advice or advise on court procedures. Her Majesty's Courts Service provides information on the courts system and how to deal with cases. You can see this guidance through the HMCS website. (launches website in new window)
Come to us as soon as you can after trying to sort things out with your lawyer. If you aren’t happy with their final response, you have up to six months to bring your complaint to us.
There are also two additional relevant time limits; we will accept complaints up to six years from the date of act/omission, or three years from when the complainant should have known about the complaint. However, this new limit will be introduced gradually so at the moment the problem must have happened on or after 6 October 2010. Or, if the problem happened earlier than that, you must not have been aware of it before 6 October 2010. If you are unsure about this change please call 0300 555 0333.
Please contact us on 0300 555 0333 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for our address for service of legal documents. Please don't serve legal documents on our Wolverhampton address.
If you have a complaint about the service we have provided to you then you should raise these issues with us at the earliest opportunity. Please see our complaints procedure for more information or contact us on 0300 555 0333.
Any complaint about the outcome of the investigation or its remedy would not be dealt with under our internal complaints procedure. We will always explain the reasons for our decisions, but once an ombudsman’s decision is made then the investigation process is complete under the rules of Legal Ombudsman scheme. The decision is final and there is no appeal process against an ombudsman’s decision. The only way to overturn it is by way of a court action called ‘judicial review’. It would be sensible, though, to get independent legal advice before taking this route. The time limits for applying to court are very short, so you should take that legal advice straight away if this is what you have in mind.
- • Informal resolution is usually a quicker way of sorting out a complaint, meaning that if there is problem affecting you, it should be over sooner.
- • It’s less work for you – and the lawyer – so if the lawyer is still working for you, that work can carry on with the minimum of disruption and hard feelings.
- • If a lawyer doesn’t do what they’ve agreed to, an ombudsman can make a formal decision and we can take the lawyer to court.
Click here to view our informal resolution case summaries.leaflet (pdf, opens in new window) based on feedback from prisons – it covers the common kinds of complaints that we receive from prisoners and best ways to contact us and make a complaint.