The aim of this guide is to give legal service providers and complaint handling staff a clear understanding of how we work. The guide includes information about key elements of our process. We will add further guidance information from time to time. If there are any topics that you would like to receive further information on please let us know.
We hope that you will find this a useful guide to the Legal Ombudsman. Anyone using this information should keep in mind that our powers are drawn from the Legal Services Act 2007, and are set out in further detail in our Scheme Rules. We have referred back to these documents where possible.
They can be found in full at:
Legal Services Act 2007, Chapter 6
The Legal Ombudsman’s jurisdiction is set out in the Legal Services Act (LSA) and in further detail in our Scheme Rules. Here we aim to give you an overview of the key areas of our jurisdiction.
a. Who can complain?
Over 90% of the complaints received by the Legal Ombudsman are from members of the public. In addition we accept complaints from:-
Many providers do not realise that we can accept complaints from beneficiaries and personal representatives. This power is set out in s.128(4)(c) of the Act. We expect legal service providers to respond to complaints from beneficiaries and personal representatives.
Scheme Rules 2.1 Legal Services Act s.128
b. Who do we accept complaints about?
The Legal Ombudsman can accept complaints about all authorised persons covered by the following regulators:
Our jurisdiction is generally based on the entities *2 or firms themselves. However, an authorised person based in an organisation such as a law centre or consumer advice organisation also falls within our remit.
The Legal Ombudsman will accept complaints about legal service providers that have closed or where a successor firm has takenover from a previous service provider. Please bear in mind that the Legal Ombudsman’s definition of a successor practice differs from the SRA’s.
*1 The Legal Ombudsman has jurisdiction over ICAEW members who have been authorised to carry out probate activities.
*2 An entity also includes barristers who are considered an entity as they are self-employed.
Scheme Rules 1.7 & Legal Services Act s.18(1) - authorised persons
Scheme Rules 2.9 and 2.10and Legal Services Act s.132 -successor practice
The Legal Ombudsman can investigate complaints about the service customers have received from their legal service provider. For example, we can look at whether:
While the Act allows us to investigate any activities undertaken by an authorised person, we only look at complaints which relate to a legal service. This is usually quite straight forward. However, in the case of alternative business structures (ABS) and multi-disciplinary providers (MDP), accountants, and insolvency practitioners *3 this may not always be as straight forward. For further details on this please refer to the MDP policy.
*3 ABS –Alternative Business Structures, MDP –multi-disciplinary practice, accountants –ICAEW accountants licensed to undertake probate activities, insolvency practitioners – those who are dual regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority as well as an insolvency practitioner regulator.
We are a lay organisation and therefore do not look at questions of law. However, we will accept complaints which raise concerns about potential negligence. Rather than making a legal decision on whether there has been negligence we will consider whether the service has been reasonable. Often these cases highlight issues regarding professional advice and judgement. Our test is to consider whether the advice was so unreasonable that no other reasonable lawyer would have provided it.
We have mentioned in this chapter, but not provided detail on the following topics:
Watch out for further guidance in these areas. In the meantime if you have questions on these areas please contact email@example.com.
All authorised persons are required to have and follow a complaints handling process. This is set out in the Legal Services Act, by the LSB, and in your regulatory code of conduct. The key signposting requirements are that service providers must notify clients:
a. at the time of engagement:
b. that if after eight weeks following the making of a first-tier complaint, it has not been resolved to the client’s satisfaction, the final complaint response must say:
If you do not provide this information in your final response, or do not send a final response, then you will be charged a case fee.
c. How long do I have to respond to a complaint?
All customers are required to complain to their legal service provider before taking a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman. Our scheme rules state that legal service providers have eight weeks to review complaints at the first tier. We can begin an investigation after this eight week period has finished, or once you have sent a final complaint response (if this is within the eight weeks).
In exceptional cases the Legal Ombudsman can consider the complaint earlier; for example, if the relationship has broken down or if we consider that there is potentially a serious situation developing where it is in the public interest to investigate.
d. EU Alternative Dispute Resolution
You may also be aware of a recent EU Directive and UK regulations on Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) which came into effect on 1 October 2015. Further details on your obligations to signpost to an ADR entity are available through your professional association. If you decide to use an ADR body the Legal Ombudsman can still consider complaints that have previously been considered by an ADR entity
e. Best practice in complaints handling
The Legal Ombudsman publishes a range of information, which you can use to inform your complaints handling. Links are included below.
Scheme Rules Chapter 3, 4.1, 4.2
Legal Services Acts.112 - complaints procedures of authorised persons
Guide to Good Complaint Handling
The Legal Ombudsman’s timescales for accepting complaints are set out in detail in our scheme rules. They are:
diagram on investigating complaints
Scheme Rules chapter 4 - time limits
Complaints are initially dealt with in our assessment centre (AC). They do the following:
At this stage the AC may, if requested by the customer, send you a letter to let you know a customer has contacted us. This letter is to make you aware that you are likely to receive a complaint, that we have not accepted the complaint for investigation, and that you do not need to contact us.
Once a complaint has been accepted for investigation you will receive a letter to confirm it. If the customer has not provided it, the AC will contact you to obtain a copy of the complaint and your final response. If you do not provide this information it could lead to a misconduct referral to your regulator.
A complaint will be put into the queue and allocated to the investigator in due course.
Respond to early challenges to jurisdiction.(see page 12)
The role of the investigator is to listen to both sides, look at the facts of the case, review the evidence, decide whether the service has been reasonable, and then to try and help the parties agree a resolution.
What happens if evidence is not provided?
confirming whether a case fee is payable;
closing cases when remedies have been undertaken;
confirming the details which will be published for ombudsman decision data (see next section).
How long will it take to resolve the complaint?
The length of a complaint will vary depending on the issues and the complexity of the case.Most cases are resolved within three months and over 90% are resolved within six months. All cases are usually resolved within one year.
How to send information
We prefer information to be sent by email directly to your investigator. Alternatively you can send information by post, quoting your case reference number. Our postal address is:
Legal Ombudsman, Po Box 6806, Wolverhampton, WV1 9WJ
Please do not send original documents. All documents are scanned into our system and originals may be destroyed.
Scheme Rules chapter 5 - How we investigate.
Legal Services Act, s.144-146 - Co-operation with investigations s.144-146
Legal Services Act, s.147-152 – Information
Watch out for further guidance in these areas. In the meantime if you have any questions please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Legal Ombudsman publishes summary information about all complaints which have received a final ombudsman decision. This information is published every three months and contains decisions from the last twelve months.
Ombudsman decision data
Scheme rule 5.55 –publication of decisions
Legal Services Act s.150 –reports of investigations
The Legal Services Act requires the Legal Ombudsman to set a structure for charging a case fee. The case fee is currently set at £400.
Chapter 6 of the scheme rules sets out the rules for case fees, the situations when it is not chargeable (rule 6.1 a) and b)) and when it may be waived (rule6.2 a) and b)). Case fees can be waived in certain circumstances and depend upon the outcome of the complaint and how well the complaint was dealt with at the first tier. If you consider that a case fee has been incorrectly applied you should let your investigator know, setting out how your situation fits with rule 6.2.
Scheme rules, chapter 6
Legal Services Act, s.136 – charges payable by respondents
Under the Legal Services Act you have a statutory obligation to cooperate with the Legal Ombudsman. However, we are aware that indemnity insurers place different obligations on you around informing them about complaints, particularly when there may be a negligence issue, which can provide conflicts for legal service providers and difficulties around cooperating with our investigations.
If this happens please contact your investigator to discuss the issue so all parties can work together to address the complaint.
If you think a complaint is:
then you have the right to challenge our decision to accept a complaint for investigation under scheme rule 5.4.
If you wish to challenge whether a complaint should be investigated it is helpful to put this in writing highlighting the relevant rules. If we receive a challenge we will always ask the customer for comments, and once these are provided the information will be sent to an ombudsman for consideration. Once it has been sent to the ombudsman we expect to make decisions within 14 days. However, this timescale can vary.
Our aim is to provide a fair, independent and effective service for all parties and we have a set of service principles, which set out what you can expect from us.
If you are not happy with the standard of service you have received during your investigation you should raise this with us as soon as possible, and firstly with the investigator involved. Full details of our service complaints procedure are on our website. This process allows you to raise concerns about the service that you have received from us, however it will not look at issues such as the outcome of the legal complaint.
We are open Monday to Friday between 8.30am and 5.30pm
If you are calling from overseas, please call +44 121 245 3050
For our minicom call 0300 555 1777
You can call us on 0300 555 0333
(Calls to the Legal Ombudsman cost the same as a normal 01 or 02 landline number, even from a mobile phone, and are recorded for training and monitoring purposes).
You can also email us at
If you want to find out more about us and what we do, please visit
Write: If you prefer, you can write to us at
PO Box 6806
image of Legal Ombudsman and what you can expect from us