A view from the top

This article is part of LeO News, edition 25.

I am delighted to be sharing this edition of LeO News with you, and my first as Chief Ombudsman at the Legal Ombudsman. I hope that in the coming year there will be opportunities to meet with you to discuss the work you do and your experience of our service, including ways in which we can improve.  

In this edition of LeO News we’ve shared our Business Plan for 2021/22 which sets out our key priorities for the year.  This is a plan focused on recovery and stability and delivering sustainable improvement to our service.  It commits the Legal Ombudsman to bringing about substantial improvement in our service and to implementing new ways of working that will help us achieve this.  

I know many of you who use our service have experienced the delays at the beginning of our service.  In the Business Plan I make it clear that this is an unacceptable position and is something that we are committed to addressing with urgency. Everything we do this year will be focused on reducing these delays and the number of people waiting to access our service.

We are already delivering on the commitments and deliverables we have set out in our Business Plan.  One of those commitments is to be transparent and accountable for delivery.  We have established a Stakeholder Challenge and Advisory Group, a focused group of stakeholders from across the legal sector who will provide their expertise as we seek to improve the way we work and deliver increased performance. We’re also committed to undertaking a review mid-way through the year and accounting for our progress in delivering our commitments and what this means for our performance. In the Business Plan I have committed us to a minimum level of performance, but all of our effort will be focused on going beyond this through a range of improvement initiatives and innovative approaches to the way we work. 

New ways of working might mean that some of you begin to see differences in the way we are responding to cases. Those using our service should now receive a letter, once we receive a complaint, to let you know that a complaint is waiting. It also includes links to guidance on how we resolve cases and the remedies that we offer – this provides a good opportunity to reflect on your own complaints handling and assess if there is anything further that can be done to resolve the complaint.  I fully appreciate the frustration caused by delays in waiting for complaints to access our system. We will continue to seek ways in which we can better manage this and keep you informed and updated in a meaningful way.

We are also looking carefully at the cases that are waiting to begin, so you may see a greater emphasis on cases being closed because a reasonable offer has already been made, or because a remedy would not be covered by an insurance policy because it is less than the excess limit on the policy.

We will also run pilot projects during the year so you may be contacted to see if you are willing to take part in these.  

A key part of our work is sharing our experience and insight from complaints to help inform improvement and give service providers the best chance of resolving complaints at a local level. This year we are changing the focus slightly to provide more tailored support, so if you’ve ever wondered why your case fee is not waived or the first tier offers you make don’t quite align with the ombudsman’s view please get in touch (support@legalombudsman.org.uk) and see if our tailored workshops can help. This is an important area of our work which offers real insight to service providers on how to make their own complaints handling more effective. 

I am in no doubt that the Legal Ombudsman has a considerable amount of work to do and we are focused on delivering improvement with pace and urgency. Please do take the opportunity to provide feedback via the various routes available, through courses, customer satisfaction surveys or feedback on pilot projects. It is vital that the changes we make deliver an effective service for the profession and consumers and your views on how we achieve this are valuable.

I look forward to working with you as we move forward. 

Paul McFadden

Chief Ombudsman