Helping legal service providers

Our job is to look at complaints about legal service providers in a fair and independent way: we will not take sides.

Find out more about how we work and what you can do to address complaints before they come to us.

Our scheme rules

Our scheme rules are approved by the Legal Services Board and the Lord Chancellor as required by the Legal Services Act 2007.

The rules set out the framework for how the Legal Ombudsman resolves complaints about legal services.

You can download the revised scheme rules as a pdf if you click on the link below.

Scheme rules (pdf – opens in new window)

You can also view our short video ‘Here to help’ (below) which helps explains our rules.

We consulted on the scheme rules in 2009, 2012 and 2015. You can see the consultation drafts and responses in our publications section, under the relevant tabs. Following the 2015 consultation we made a decision to postpone our application to be an ADR entity therefore the changes consulted on in 2015 will not be implemented at the present time.

Learning from complaints

Case study publication – March 2016

Welcome to the first in a series of new online case study publications. The Legal Ombudsman’s role is two-fold: to investigate complaints about the service people have received from their legal service provider; and to feedback to the profession on any trends or issues we see in our role as the complaint handling body for the legal sector.

Guidance and resources

What we expect from regulated service providers

Signposting

All regulated service providers have a legal obligation to tell their clients (and those eligible to use our service) about accessing redress from the Ombudsman. Your regulator specifies these requirements in a Code of Conduct. The same obligation also requires you to tell your clients about your in-house complaints handling procedure.

You can use our leaflet to signpost people to our scheme and meet most of your legal obligations.

Advice for service providers handling complaints

We have published our ‘Guide to good complaint handling’ which explains what we expect to see from service providers when dealing with a complaint. There are also our top tips for responding to a complaint.

More detailed information can be found in our Language of Complaints report.

How long do I have to sort out a problem?

You have up to eight weeks to sort out a problem from the time your client raises the problem with you. After that time, the person can come to the Ombudsman.

What to expect from our scheme

How long will it take you to look at a complaint?

Once we’ve accepted the initial complaint, we place the case with a dedicated investigator. They will look at the information provided and contact both the consumer and the service provider. When the investigator contacts you, they will provide you with their direct contact details.

We aim to resolve complaints within three months of the date the consumer confirmed the details of the complaint with us. However, if an ombudsman’s decision is required or we need more information, it could take longer.

How do you stay in touch?

We can speak to you on the telephone or contact you via email and/or a letter.

You can contact us by telephone on 0300 555 0333, email us at enquiries@legalombudsman.org.uk, use our complaint form or write to us at PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton, WV1 9WJ.

How will you resolve the complaint?

From the start of an investigation, and throughout it, we will look for opportunities to resolve the problem by finding a solution that all parties can agree to.

The investigator will listen to what both of you have to say, ensuring that they don’t take sides and that they achieve a fair outcome. It can be easier, and quicker, to sort out a problem if everyone agrees what the solution needs to be. See below for a brief overview of our process.

How do we resolve complaints?

1

Assessment

Our first step is to check that we can help resolve your problem; so we will ask about you, your service provider, and the timeframes to make sure we have powers to investigate your complaint.

We will ask you to send us a copy of your complaint and the final response from the service provider

2

Investigation

If we can investigate your problem, your case will be passed to an investigator who will look at the facts and form an independent view about what happened.

Sometimes, after we look at the facts, we find that there was no poor service. If we find that there was poor service, we will first try to help you and your service provider to resolve the issue quickly and informally. It’s best for everyone, and quicker, if an amicable agreement can be reached.

3

Resolving complaints

From the start of the investigation we will look for opportunities to resolve your problem that you and your service provider can agree to, in order to resolve your complaint as quickly as possible for you.

If this is not possible, your investigator will write a report that may propose a remedy or action the service provider should take. We will send a copy of the report to both you and the service provider for you to tell us what you think. An ombudsman may be required to make a decision, which, once agreed, is final and binding. An ombudsman decision may be less favourable than the recommendation proposed by the investigator

How case fees operate

What are case fees?

The Legal Services Act 2007 says that we must set a structure for charging a fee (a “case fee”) to service providers if we investigate a case that is within our jurisdiction. In most cases we are legally obliged to charge the case fee.

Where a case that we investigate turns out not to be within our jurisdiction then no case fee will be charged nor will a fee be charged if the case is dismissed or discontinued under paragraph 5.7 of our rules.

Do you always charge a case fee?

No. There are some circumstances where we will waive the case fee. These are where the complaint was: a) withdrawn or abandoned by the complainant during the course of the investigation; or b) settled, resolved or determined in favour of the service provider; and c) we are also satisfied that the service provider took all reasonable steps under their complaints procedure to try to resolve the complaint.

 

How do we decide whether or not to waive the case fee?

The decision to waive a case fee will depend on the outcome of the investigation. Where we find either that the service provider had done nothing wrong, or that the provider had already made a reasonable offer before we became involved, we will waive the case fee unless we believe the provider had not properly dealt with the complaint in-house.

Publishing ombudsman decisions

What does this mean?

We publish data about all cases that have required an ombudsman’s decision. We do this in line with the powers given to the Office for Legal Complaints (the Board of the Legal Ombudsman) under the Legal Services Act 2007.

You can read more about our decision to do this go to consultations. This paper sets out the basis for our decision and provides more detail about the information we will publish.

How long does the information about a legal service provider stay on the website?

The information about an individual case stays on the page for a year. So, when we update the data every three months, the numbers will change as new data is added and data about cases older than 12 months is no longer published.

How often do you update the data you publish?

Every three months we publish new data of our cases with an ombudsman decision. We’ll keep the data for each case on the page for a year.

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