Legal Ombudsman research indicates that clients aren’t being made aware of their right to complain about poor service by lawyers. That’s despite a regulatory obligation on lawyers to signpost to the scheme.
When asked how they first heard about the Legal Ombudsman, less than a quarter (just 20%) of people recalled hearing about the scheme from their lawyer.
According to a separate analysis of service providers’ internal complaint procedures, 72% of the sample provided no signposting information or, if they did, it was incorrect.
The lack of signposting has contributed to a general reduction in awareness of the Ombudsman scheme, meaning consumers might not know where to go for help when things go wrong.
Kathryn Stone OBE, Chief Ombudsman, said: “Many people could be losing their chance to put things right after receiving poor service, simply because they don’t know where to go.
“Legal regulations are quite clear that lawyers should be telling clients about how to complain if they are unhappy, and that they can bring a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman if they’re dissatisfied with their lawyer’s handling of a complaint.”
The Ombudsman resolved 6,500 complaints last year. Residential conveyancing was the most complained about area of law, accounting for almost a quarter (22%) of complaints resolved. Family law (14%), personal injury (12%), and wills and probate (13%) were the other main areas of complaint to the scheme.
The Ombudsman has published a signposting pack to help lawyers, available free here.
Notes for Editors
- The Legal Ombudsman is free for consumers who wish to complain about a legal service provider or a claims management company (CMC). They can contact the Legal Ombudsman on 0300 555 0333 or email email@example.com
- The Legal Ombudsman for England and Wales was set up by the Office for Legal Complaints (our Board) under the Legal Services Act 2007. We are independent and impartial. This means that when we receive complaints, we will look at the facts in each case and weigh-up both sides of the story. We are not consumer champions or part of the legal profession, and we are also independent of Government. There is no cost to the taxpayer.
- When consumers make a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman we ask them how they heard about us. Our data shows that 20% of the 3,680 consumers who answered this question heard about us from their legal service provider.
- The Legal Ombudsman has undertaken an in depth review of a sample of 100 cases. This is a representative sample of complaints where poor service and no poor service were found, and looked at a variety of areas of law. Out of the sample, 72% of firms had provided no signposting information or had provided incorrect signposting information.