photo of LeO Assessor Katherine Wilson and Investigator Mary Noonan

View from Operations - Assessor

Katherine Wilson is an assessor in our Assessment Centre.

Photo of Katherine Wilson - Assessor

What does a typical day look like for an assessor?

There is no such thing as a typical day for an assessor, but the variety is what makes my role interesting and challenging. The Assessment Centre (AC) is the front line for all calls, emails and letters from both members of the public and service providers so every contact is different. The main focus of the AC is to check whether a complaint is within the Legal Ombudsman’s jurisdiction. So, for example, is the complaint about a lawyer? And is it within our timescales? Has the consumer complained to the lawyer yet? If it isn’t something we can investigate we try to signpost people to a relevant organisation who can assist.

What sort of cases and queries do you deal with on a regular basis?

A large number of consumers who contact us with complaints are premature. That means they are complaints we could consider but only once they have tried to resolve the complaint with their service provider first. At this stage we give out guidance on how to make the complaint and offer to contact the service provider to forewarn them and remind them of their time limits. At this stage we remind people we are independent and impartial, which helps manage their expectations of our process.

What kind of queries do you receive from service providers and how do you respond to them?

We’re often contacted for guidance and further information regarding our time limits and process, sometimes this is because they want to challenge our jurisdiction for accepting a complaint. If they have found poor service during their own internal investigation of a complaint they might also ask for advice about what sort of remedy to award. This isn’t something we can provide an answer to in the AC as without investigating a complaint we can’t advise what remedy would be fair and reasonable. When this happens we signpost lawyers to our website instead – particularly the case summaries section for examples of decisions we have made in previous cases, or to Lawyerline for advice on complaints handling.

View from Operations - Investigator

Mary Noonan is an investigator in our Resolution Centre.

Photo of Mary Noonan - Investigator

What does a typical day look like for an investigator?

At any one time, an investigator will be looking at an average of 17 live cases, so a day begins with prioritising which case to look at first. Some complaints can be resolved very quickly with just a couple of phone calls, and if it looks like this is a possibility, it makes sense to help both parties deal with this as quickly as possible. Otherwise, we tend to deal with cases in date order.

Usually our days are spent discussing cases with complainants and lawyers, or reviewing evidence and putting together our investigation reports. If there are any new cases to deal with, we look at the information we have been provided with so far which should include the formal complaint and a final response from the lawyer. We will always follow this up with discussions with the lawyer and the complainant to introduce ourselves and to check we understand the complaint. Usually we then write to both parties so we can request any other evidence we need.

Once new cases have been set up, we look at any evidence that has arrived on our existing cases. Reviewing evidence may be the focus of the day, or if this has been done, we will spend time discussing our findings with the complainant and the lawyer, to see if an agreement can be reached. Ideally, we prefer to resolve complaints informally – that is, by agreement between the two parties.

However, if we can’t do this we will write a report of our recommendations. A report can take anything from an hour or so, to a day to write. Sometimes, once they have had the opportunity to read the report the parties will decide to resolve the complaint at this stage. If not we summarise all the comments received from the parties, and send this, along with the report and supporting evidence to an Ombudsman to make a final decision.

What sort of cases and queries do you deal with on a regular basis?

Investigators don’t specialise so we all look at different types of complaint. Typically they will be about probate, divorce and conveyancing and often we deal with complaints about how much things cost, why things have taken longer than expected and why a certain course of action has been taken.

How do you come to your conclusions on a case?

Conclusions on a complaint are rarely clear cut. The investigation is evidence based, and we keep an open mind throughout and only arrive at a conclusion after consideration of all the relevant evidence. Ideally, a conclusion is based on a clear document trail which tells the entire “story” of the complaint. However, when there is not enough evidence, or it is inconclusive, then our conclusions are based on the balance of probabilities and what, in the end, is most likely to have happened.

What advice do you have for service providers about working with investigators during an investigation?

The easiest cases to resolve – even where the subject matter is complex – are the ones where both parties cooperate fully with LeO. For a lawyer, this means providing evidence within the timescale provided, and being available to answer questions and discuss possible resolutions.

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