We aim to provide a high-quality legal service to our clients. When something goes wrong, we need
to know about it so that we can put things right and improve our standards.

The procedure outlined below also helps us to identify and address any systemic failings or areas of
bad practice. Where appropriate, we will apologise and, in some cases, offer recompense to those
who complain.

Complaints Procedure

Concerns and Formal Complaints

The firm operates a two-tier complaints procedure, dividing matters into Concerns and Formal
Complaints, as below.

Who can complain under this Policy and Procedure?

A Concern or Formal Complaint can be brought by any client, potential client or someone authorised
to do so on their behalf (including a personal representative or beneficiary of the estate of a
deceased client).

If a Concern or Formal Complaint is raised by anyone else, the matter should be referred to the
Complaints Handler, who will consider whether the complainant is covered by this Policy and
Procedure, or whether the matter should be dealt with by some other means.

A concern or complaint can be about our service or our charges.

Concerns

There are occasions where clients express Concerns that can quite properly be dealt with swiftly and
resolved informally by the Supervisor of the staff member with conduct of the matter.
Supervisors will make a judgement as to whether they are able to swiftly and informally deal with
the issue to the client’s satisfaction.

If a Supervisor considers that the issue amounts to a Formal Complaint then they should
immediately refer the matter to the Complaints Handler.

Guidance for Supervisors on whether an issue amounts to a Concern or a Formal Complaint is
available in the firm’s Office Manual. In case of doubt, the Supervisor should seek the advice of the
Complaints Handler.

In order to deal with the Concern, it will usually be necessary for the Supervisor to undertake a brief
investigation of the circumstances giving rise to the issue. Any Concern must be dealt with swiftly
and in any event within 10 working days. A note of any communication pertaining to the Concern
should be recorded on the appropriate matter.

When seeking informally to resolve any Concern, Supervisors shall inform the client of the right to
make a Formal Complaint to the Complaints Handler should they wish to do so.
Supervisors must immediately make their Head of Department aware of any Concern raised or of
any matters that they have referred to the Complaints Handler.

Formal Complaints

If the Supervisor is unable to resolve the problem or considers that it amounts to a Formal Complaint
then the matter shall be referred to the firm’s Complaints Handler and Senior Partner, Jacky Starling.
A Formal Complaint is defined as:

  • A substantial expression of dissatisfaction
  • Made by any means of communication
  • About an alleged act or omission of, or the general standard of service provided by, the firm’s employees, consultants or agents
  • Which the complainant alleges has led or may lead to the complainant suffering financial loss, distress, inconvenience or other detriment
  • Which requires investigation and a response
  • Which, if upheld, could result in an apology and/or recompense.

If a Concern has not been resolved to a complainant’s satisfaction, then that can also be considered
as a Formal Complaint upon request.

Role of the Complaints Handler

The Complaints Handler will deal with the Formal Complaint, promptly, fairly, openly and effectively.

The Complaints Handler will:

  1. Confirm the client’s preferred method of communication and help them understand the process.
    Although it does assist if the complaint is put in writing, clients can communicate with the
    Complaints Handler in any way they wish.
  2. Acknowledge receipt of any Formal Complaint within 5 working days.
  3. Normally provide a substantive final response within 15 working days. If more time is required
    then the client will be informed of the reasons for this, with 8 weeks normally being the maximum
    length of time for any final response to be provided. In order to provide the substantive response,
    the Complaints Handler will:
  1. Embark upon an investigation of the circumstances of the case by undertaking a fact finding
    exercise being impartial, open, transparent and proportionate to the seriousness of the
    complaint.
  2. Establish where possible what the complainant wants as an outcome.
  3. Identify the cause of the problem and offer any appropriate redress and correct any
    unsatisfactory procedures.
  4. Inform the client at the conclusion of the investigation of their right to take the matter to
    the Legal Ombudsman should they remain dissatisfied and provide their contact details.
  5. Report to the relevant Head of Department on the nature and circumstances of the
    Complaint.

Complaints Register

The Complaints Handler will keep a central record of complaints that will contain details of the:

  1. Date of receipt
  2. Origins of complaint
  3. Cause and nature of the complaint
  4. Identity of the individuals concerned
  5. An assessment of whether the complaint is justified or not
  6. Action taken, remedies offered, and any systemic failures identified.
  7. Date final response was sent.

The register will be reviewed annually by the Complaints Handler to verify that the Complaints Policy
is in effective operation across the practice. The register is considered at Members’ Meetings.

If we are unable to satisfactorily resolve the Formal Complaint, then the client will be informed of
their right to take the matter to the Legal Ombudsman. Before a client approaches the Ombudsman,
they must usually have already made a Formal Complaint to us.

The Legal Ombudsman will not normally consider a complaint unless:

  1. It is made within 6 months of the client receiving a final response from us; and
  2. It is made in relation to an act or omission that took place after 5 October 2010 (or the client
    should reasonably have known about the cause of complaint after that date); and
  3. It is made no later than 6 years from the date of the act or omission or 3 years from when
    the client should reasonably have known there was cause for complaint.

A referral to the Legal Ombudsman is generally not available to the following clients: –

  • most businesses (unless they are defined as micro enterprises)
  • charities or clubs with an annual income of more £1m, or
  • trustees of trusts with asset value of more than £1m

Further guidance is available at: www.legalombudsman.org.uk/
The Legal Ombudsman can be contacted by:
Telephone: 0300 555 0333
E-mail: enquiries@legalombudsman.org.uk
Post: PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton, WV1 9WJ

Alternative Dispute Resolution

The SRA Code of Conduct for Solicitors 2019 requires that if a complaint has been brought and our
complaints procedure has been exhausted without the complaint being settled, in addition to
providing information about the right to complain to the Legal Ombudsman (see above), the
complainant is also provided with the name and website address of an alternative dispute resolution
(ADR) approved body which would be competent to deal with the complaint; and confirmation as to
whether the firm agrees to use the scheme operated by that body
Regulation 10 of the Provision of Services Regulations 2009 (as amended) now requires the
Secretary of State to maintain a list of ADR bodies and to ensure that the list is published on a
nominated website. The list is available on Chartered Institute for Trading Standards website. Of
those on the list, ProMediate (www.promediate.co.uk) holds itself out as dealing with disputes with
Legal Services (and other industries). The firm is not prepared to engage in ADR with any of these
bodies as either they are approved but do not cover the legal services industry, or (as with
ProMediate) there is a similar and cheaper right of redress available through the Legal Ombudsman,
who has expertise in these matters.

This Complaints Policy and Procedure is intended to comply with the Legal Ombudsman’s Scheme
Rules, as last updated on 1 April 2019. It was reviewed in February 2022 by Jacky Starling

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