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The Legal Ombudsman has published its annual complaints data for the period 1 July 2015 to 30 June 2016, with the aim of maintaining transparency around its decision making and also encouraging improvements to complaints handling. A webinar summarising the annual data was also screened earlier this week.
Its website also includes names of firms and lawyers against which a decision has been made, together with the number of complaints and the remedy required. It quite rightly acknowledges that this information is not in context, as it does not include details of the numbers of cases each firm or lawyer handles each year, which is due to not having that information available to it. The table outlining the decisions is available at http://www.legalombudsman.org.uk/ombudsman-decision-data/.
Interestingly, the volume of complaints accepted by the LeO and resolved has decreased over this period. While the LeO accepts that some of this is due to changes in Legal Aid and tribunal fees, it considers that the decrease could also be attributed in part to practices recognising and resolving complaints better.
The data highlights that the practice areas of residential conveyancing, family, wills and probate, personal injury and litigation are consistently in the top 5 of complaints to the LeO.
Not surprisingly, given that residential conveyancing is the most commonly used legal service, it is also the most complained about, with approximately 25% of complaints relating to it. The LeO is slightly concerned, however, by the reduction in the number of complaints in this area since the last annual data (approximately 300 fewer conveyancing complaints): while you would expect the level of complaints to be linked to the economy/housing market, the data does not correlate with the increased number of recorded residential conveyancing transactions.
The types of complaints have also remained broadly the same since 2012. The main causes were delay/failure to progress work (20%); failure to advise (18%); poor costs information (17%); failure to follow instructions (16%) and communication issues (16%).
Approximately half of all complaints referred to the LeO were resolved in favour of the lawyer/legal practice, with the LeO concluding ether that the service was reasonable or that it did not cause detriment to the complainant. However, in one quarter of cases, compensation was awarded and in a further 16% of cases, a fee related remedy was awarded (e.g. waived or reduced fees). Non financial remedies, such as an apology or returning documents to a party were awarded in 15% of cases.
Complaints were informally resolved in 30% of cases, with 40% forwarded to an ombudsman for a final decision. Other complaints were resolved by being dismissed under the Scheme Rules, or closed (abandoned or withdrawn).
Of those cases which were resolved informally, compensation was awarded in 42% of these, of which 23% were fee related compensation and only 17% were resolved informally without any financial remedy.
The majority of cases (40%) are referred to an ombudsman for a financial decision, with the vast majority (70%) resulting in a financial remedy of less than £1,000. Only in 11% of cases was an award greater than £5,000 awarded, with the majority of high value remedies being in residential cases where the average award was £20,000 (bearing in mind the maximum the LeO can award is £50,000).
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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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