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The Legal Ombudsman (LeO) recently highlighted the failure of many solicitors to provide their clients with full information about complaints.
This arose from research carried out by the LeO of complainants to them, of whom only 20% stated they had heard about the LeO from their solicitor. Another analysis found that 72 out of 100 firms had provided no or inaccurate signposting information.
The regulatory obligation to provide complaints information arises from the mandatory obligations set out in Outcomes (1.9) and (1.10) of the SRA Code of Conduct as follows:
You are still required to inform clients of this, even if you are aware that they will not have the right to complain to the LeO, due to falling into one of the categories of exceptions, which include: businesses, charities and/or clubs with a turnover of more than £1m. In those cases, however, clients should still be informed that they have the right to complain to you and a right to assessment.
The right of clients to challenge or complain about their bill should be signposted, as well as their right to apply for assessment under Part III of the Solicitors Act 1974.
The LeO is entitled to require reimbursement of the case fee by the solicitor, even if it finds no evidence of poor service, if sufficient information on the complaints handling process has not been provided to the client.
Action: signposting must be provided in the retainer documentation and at the conclusion of your complaints procedure, but this will not be sufficient to comply with your regulatory obligations, unless you comply with the mandatory outcome to deal with clients' complaints ‘promptly, fairly, openly and effectively’ in accordance with Outcome (1.11).
Client Relationship Manager
T: 0845 056 3949
M: 0743 727 4046
The Law Society has issued a practice note about the risks to solicitors posed by this new legislation, which came into force on 30 September.
The SRA has urged all practices to check HM Treasury’s consolidated list of asset freeze targets, which lists designated persons subject to financial sanction under EU or UK legislation.
The practising certificate renewal period opened on Monday 2 October.
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