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LSB Call for a ‘Step-change’ in first-tier Complaint Handling
May 22, 2024

On May 16, The Legal Services Board stated there must be a ‘step-change improvement’ in first-tier complaint handling to ensure all firms are dealing with them effectively and as fairly as possible.

The oversight regulator wants the Solicitors Regulation Authority to assist law firms to enhance their complaints handling and to use means of enforcement if necessary. Last week, new requirements and guidance were published in relation to concerns that legal providers are doing an insufficient job of handling complaints and putting measures in place to ensure they don’t escalate further.

Alan Kershaw, chair of the Legal Services Board, stated: “too many people experience challenges in having their complaints dealt with fairly and promptly. Often this is because it is not clear how to complain or they feel they come up against a wall of silence.”

The LSB also referenced research, which revealed that nearly half of all complaint cases that came to the Legal Ombudsman had been inadequately dealt with by the firms involved, and nearly one-third of complaints were made before the first-tier process was exhausted. This was due primarily to either fear of the complexity of the process or lack of confidence in it.  

The LSB has said it will now expect regulators to pursue the best complaints resolution alongside a culture of continuous learning and improvement in regard to complaints. The new guidance already published insists regulators use eight weeks as a metric for assessing how efficiently a supposed firm has been able to handle a complaint.

It is vital that complaints procedures be as accessible as possible. It is also essential that the steps taken as a result of a complaint be explained as clearly as possible. Clients must also be informed of their right to make a first-tier complaint and to involve the legal Ombudsman after eight weeks. Furthermore, firms need to supply complainants with updates and maintain communications in plain and clear language that is both “professional and emphatic”. Firms should also consider any sensitivities concerning a case or client and offer an apology where appropriate.

To read the full Law Society Gazette Article, follow the link below:

Firms to face new demands to raze ‘wall of silence’ on complaints.

Get in touch with TSP

This news signposts the eventuality that the Solicitors Regulation Authority and other legal services regulators will start reacting proactively towards firms who are not handling complaints to the expected standard. Regulators are going to start searching for and identifying weaknesses in your firm’s complaint-handling process. They will likely target firms they consider to have a “consistently high” number of complaints to begin with. The guidance published last week also stated that firms failing to comply with regulatory requirements are likely to be subject to enforcement, especially when it is in the public interest.

At The Strategic Partner, our complaint management service has been crafted to deliver firms with an outsourced, independent and efficient way of managing complaints. In lots of cases, complaints can be unavoidable and often a consequence of providing legal services. Whilst most firms receive a low number of complaints, the handling of them is a cost that cannot be recovered. Regardless, firms must take all complaints seriously – the quicker they are dealt with, the more efficiently they can be resolved.

  • Where the complaint is justified, addressing the issue in a timely manner will, more often than not, prevent the complaint from being escalated.
  • When the complaint is unjustified, an understanding explanation will likely resolve the matter and prevent escalation too.

The assistance of an external expert who specialises in the handling, management and resolution of complaints is the most cost effective and efficient way of ensuring any complaints received by your law firm are resolved to the highest standard.

Our Service

Our Complaint Management Service is designed to provide firms with expert solutions, placing the best interests of the firm and their clients at the fore. Our service covers the initial intimation of a complaint, the subsequent investigation and the resulting liaison with the client, all the way through to the final resolution.

Our service works on the following basis:

  • Engagement. The firm confirms it requires The Strategic partner to manage its complaints. The service will only be actioned when a complaint arises that the firm wishes TSP to manage.
  • Agreement. The firm and TSP will enter a confidentiality agreement that is compliant with the SRA Codes of Conduct and GDPR.
  • Instruction. After a complaint is received, we will ask the firm to provide us with details and advise the client that TSP has been instructed to review their complaint on an independent and impartial basis.
  • Review and Investigation. TSP will promptly review the file and, if necessary, speak with the fee earner and the client (or representative) involved to establish the cause of the complaint. This will allow us to quickly identify any issues for concern.
  • Report. We will then report back to the firm with a draft response to the complaint, alongside clear recommendations on action to be taken.
  • Implementation. Following formal approval, we will then issue this to the client and seek to resolve the complaint in accordance with the agreed action plan. When appropriate, we will return to the firm to discuss any further issues that arise, and adapt or amend the action plan as needed.
  • Resolution. We will work with the firm and the client to bring the complaint to a close on the best terms possible.

If you would like to know more about how we price our Complaint Management Service or learn more about the service itself, follow the link below:

Complaint Management Service Brochure

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